How might Digital Badging impact the future of learning and assessment

There is no question that marks or grades remain a constant in education in both the lives of students, teachers, administrators, parents and politicians in 2015. Yet today, we have many tools to document, assess student learning and achievements with a remarkable level of specificity beyond a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). Futurist Turri, believes that “the grade point average (GPA) will no longer be the primary instrument to validate academic achievement.” (Turri, Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes) How would such a transition from a marks-based to a standards-based approach in education impact assessment processes? How can we leverage sound pedagogy, learning theories and technological tools to aid students to achieve and learn with rigor yet allow them individual expression and reflection? Could instructors and institutions use strategies such as badging or digital portfolios to measure student progress for future learning opportunities and even offer them as admission standards for future learning or employment? Would a standards-based approach aid graduates given how critical self-directed and lifelong learning will be in our increasingly complex times.

Digital badging is one new practice worth examining for its potential benefits for teaching, learning assessment practices in both formal and informal learning settings. “Digital badges are an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. “ 1 ( )

This YouTube video from Mozilla explores the reasoning, practices and potential methodology behind digital badges.

This diagram I designed showcases the Badges Ecosystem as described by the Mozilla Open Badges video above and John Foster’s article. This diagram has the learner in the middle, who is awarded a badge from an issuer (a respected authority figure on a topic or subject) which is stored and displayed as part of a collection and ideally as part of digital portfolio. The critical step of this ecosystem must be the potential link between the badge and specific evidence of the individual’s results and achievements. Jackie Gerstein states this in her blog post “I Don’t Get Digital Badges!” (ed. note – I believe she actually likes them, but offers a fair and critical review of badging as an indicator of student progress and achievement not a replacement.) Finally, badges are stored in a public place like a digital portfolio, blog or websites for interested parties (i.e. admission officers, potential employers etc.)  to access and review.

Some of the benefits of digital badges are: they provide a method to showcase the skills of learners beyond traditional structures like academic transcript marks and degrees. As we live in increasingly technical and complex times, surrounded by evolving technology, organizations and knowledge, lifelong learning becomes an essential ingredient of success and productive citizens. Badges are one strategy to measure and recognize new learning in a transparent manner. When badges are linked directly to evidence on eportfolios or websites (i.e. video, photos, documents, testimonials etc.) etc. potential employees, partners, administrators and evaluators will have a better insight into a individual’s abilities beyond marks, transcripts or perhaps even a short interview. For educators, eportfolios and badges can aid the assessment process by providing a more complete pictures of a learner’s progress. A digital portfolio (, wiki, site etc.) can also provide a rich platform for dialogue and asynchronous communication between educators and learners through comments and messaging. As learning becomes increasingly specialized, badging offers a new and potentially unique pathway of learning for each student. In other words, an educational system based on badges in a higher institution might allow students to register for specific courses only previously available to a specific degree. Alex Halavais, a college professor uses badges instead of a traditional grading system in his university course on communications. “It’s an index of your learning biography,” he says. “It allows you to stitch together your [educational career] in interesting ways.” (Ash , Colleges Use ‘Digital Badges to replace Traditional Grading.”

A good critical analysis demands that we address some of the challenges with badging. In specific, some might say that students escape rigor through a “easy pathway” of courses in higher institutions. (i.e. B.Sc. students could avoid the dreaded “Bio-Chemistry” course, Social Science students avoid Math heavy statistics course or Arts students avoid learning a second language as prerequisites for graduation.) Critics might say such gaps could undermine the reputation of the institution by potential employers who expect employees from a particular course to have a specific set of skills. However, such a pathway would be a learner’s choice and employee with access to badge information could examine a canditate skills in more rather than less detail. Finally a student in Halavais course from above wonders “whether the system would be too unstructured for a less motivated younger student. ” (Ash, 2012) In response to that criticism, I would suggest that good curriculum design and lesson planning could allow K-12 students, who I would argue love choices, to experience an equally rigorous pathway.

Badging has the potential to increase motivation in students. Badging is definitely a form of operant conditioning, which educators can use positive reinforcement of awarding badges to encourage students to learn and excel. Instructors can utilize badges as positive reinforcement for learning and success. However, as students get older this form of positive reinforcement may lose its impact especially if not accompanied by increase credibility for badges from outside sources (i.e. potential employers or admissions officers.)

Examining badging through the lens of a humanist learning theory, reveals that badges could provide a authentic record of learner’s pathway of  exploration, understanding and interactions with others. Badges would be an excellent method to map out and articulate Malcolm Knowles’ ideas on self-directed learning. This pathway of learning could also include a wide range of interactions and connections that demonstrate curiosity and the active journey to change society as Freire suggests. Perhaps through reflection and detail provided in a digital portfolios, full of badges, visitors might even be able to see evidence of the journey towards self-actualization at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In short, the opportunity to have a clear record of specific learnings beyond traditional methods like degrees and marks helps individuals present a more accurate expression of themselves, perhaps even approaching the ideal self.

From cognitivist and constructivist perspectives, a collection of badges might provide a map of the “black box” of a learner’s brain. In addition, badges when accompanied by a collection of writing, thoughts and reflections perhaps in digital portfolio format could provide a road map of a learner’s journey through Piaget’s stages of development. Such a format is an excellent artifact for examining a learning’s thinking as they assimilate and accommodate new learning. Learners, dependent on age and stage, can also be aware of their Zone of Proximal Development through examining and planning their learning pathways and through collaboration between teacher and learner on a portfolio. Learners should definitely be able to view, question and explore the criteria for earning specific badge in order to consider next steps. Finally, the link between play, gaming and learning is reinforced as badging is often a huge element in recording a gamer progress in the completion of the game. Critical to this connection between gaming and badging is providing a non-linear structure for learning where learners can “unlock” badges and a variety of learning pathways that appeal to them.

Badging has much potential to aid teachers and students if grounded in good pedagogy, fully supported by parties internal and external to organization, as a reward for rigour, student success and achievement. Such student progress MUST be accompanied by specific evidence, perhaps a embedded in a portfolio or badge itself or as a open link. Considering learner motivation towards is challenging because “(I)t is beyond argument that we cannot crack open a learner’s head, insert a magnifying glass, and make direct, error-free observations of what the learner “knows.” (Wiley, 2012) My experience with badging seems to indicate that this strategy of portfolios and badges will motivate most but not all. However, in the differentiated classroom, educators must leverage a variety of tools to appeal and in some cases motivate all the individual learners in their class. Through the lens of learning theories, I would argue that badging and digital portfolios need to be continually examined critically but at this time have potential for a positive impact on learning. Experiences with badging in three environments, junior students in Grade 4, senior students in Grade 11 and 12 and finally educators seem indicate that badges and digital portfolios provide an asset for both educators and learners in the assessment process.

“Advocates of this vision for K-12 contend that such badges could help bridge educational experiences that happen in and out of school, as well as provide a way to recognize “soft skills” such as leadership and collaboration. Badges could paint a more granular and meaningful picture of what a student actually knows than a standardized-test score or a letter grade. ” (Ash, 2012)


Ash, K. (2012, June 13). Colleges Use ‘Digital Badges’ to Replace Traditional Grading. Digital Directions, 05(03), 26. Retrieved HERE

Chuter, A. (2015, February 6th) Digital Badging: a valuable addition to aid assessment practices.

Digital Badges (2015)

Siko et al. (2013) Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes 

Foster, J. C. (2013). The promise of digital badges. Techniques, 88(8), 30+. Retrieved here

Gerstein, Jackie, (2013, March 16th) –

Turri, Dan et al. (September-October-2013 Vol.47-No.5) Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes)

Wiley, David (2012, June 12th) Iterating towards Openness

Tools for Issuers of Badging

Mozilla Open Badges

Digital Badging: a valuable addition to assessment practice

Badging sample
Why Badges?

There is no question that kids (and adults) love shiny new toys and for educators, digital badging is trending as a practice to aid motivation, learning and student achievement. Anyone familiar with boys or girls scouts (my son is a cub!) know that badging is not really new and like the military serves as a critical element in their programme. Badging is used as motivation for encouraging their members to learn, achieve and is proudly displayed on sashes and uniforms during ceremonies or special occasions.

Today in education, students today of all ages can have access to a (free!) digital space (call it digital portfolios, blogs, websites or even cloud storage) where earned badges and achievements now have a place to be displayed to a potentially global audience. Dependent on the age of the student, their digital space can be teacher or student-curated. The opportunity to modify the degree of sharing from private or public and access to specific groups like parents or experts in between. However, I cannot help but ask whether digital badges aids motivation to learn or even diminishes it? I was inspired to this critical analysis from my own experiences, discussions in a class on Behaviorism and Jackie Gerstein’s well articulated blog post called “Why I hate digital badges.” (Spoiler alert: She doesn’t but is rightfully critical and cautious that badging should not replace evidence of learning among other ideas.)

However, I find that badges can aid the assessment process when used to celebrate, recognize and motivate student achievement and learning. Offering badges can offer students choice to earn, achieve and learn but should be not linear in their application (i.e. one badge at a time.) This experience will be familiar to those students who commonly unlock achievements in video games. (And I have a sneaking suspicion we all know might know a few student gamers in our classes:) Allowing students the option to complete tasks and curate projects in any order I believe replicates a differentiated instruction strategy of choice boards and would be appealing for students. And like games, some badges would be easy to earn than other more complex requirements.

I also like how badges can be a tangible reward that might be placed on blog, wiki or social media site. And after reading Jackie Gerstein’s article, I agree that the matching of badges with a digital portfolios or web spaces is essential so that interested parties can “click through” hyperlinks to examine related photos, videos, files and creative work for specific evidence of learning at a level of detail dependent on the observer. However, I am admittedly reluctant of the place of badges when transferred from one class to another. In other words, even the most well designed and transparent badging system is best used over the course of one school year with one teacher. Although Mozilla hope to apply standards to badging through their open source Open Badges initiative. (So watch this space!) Even higher educational institutions are getting in on the badging act.

Badges allow students to be rewarded for selected and specific achievements within a unit or course of study. In a mark-based system of assessment with rubrics, students may be reluctant to work towards something that is not marked. No question and full disclosure here, some students do struggle with the idea of shifting from a mark-based model to a standards-based one. Badging can help with the assessment process as students are able to be recognized personally for their achievements when achieving a badge by the instructor and can be key collaborators for peers interested in earning a particular badge. On that last point, badging is also a differentiation tool as like all initiatives Roger’s bell curve applies. Having badging will motivate some students (and I would argue a large majority) but may not be for all and I think that is ok. An educator might have to use different strategies to motivate, inspire, support and teach. (Yes, badging is certainly “no magic bullet” but can an evolving practice that I argue offers benefits to all involved in the learning process.)

I have been experimenting with badges in both Primary, Junior and Senior environments and find them a useful to aid the assessment process.

Below is a diagram of workflow in my classes and badging would enter in between Stage 5 and 6 of the process where projects are commented on, assessed and returned. As for platforms, I have been using KidBlog (sample) with primary students and Google Sites with both junior (sample) and senior (sample) students. Although, next steps with Grade 12 students would be to use services like Squarespace and the Adobe Creative Cloud as requested (Their requests and they are right…)
BVG Workflow sample 2014

How to create badges

Creating using Power Point

Creating using

Also is an excellent resource for creating badges and even collecting embeddable options. For me, I have a folder that I use with all my badges in it (HERE) and create and collaborative with colleagues on Google documents with the requirements for each badges.

Further discussion on badging

I look forward to sharing my continuing practice with badging and eportfolios but remember that as assessment change, adapt and evolve (hopefully for the better) celebrating and encouraging student achievement is fundamental.

Here are a small sample of sites on badging. I look forward to further discussions and chats on Twitter and specifically at #badgechatk12.

Using badging with K-12 –

Higher Education example – Masters in Education through Badging –

Shelly Terrell’s slidedeck on adapting assessment to be missions –

Jackie Gerstein’s blog post with a critical examination of digital badging –

Kate Ash’s features of digital badging –

Nellie Deutsch’s post on badges as virtual rewards –

Technology’s Promise: How can we leverage technology to aid learning in the 2014 and beyond? EDUC 5101 Synthesis

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There is no question that learning in the internet age is completely different from any time in history. Traditional structures, routines and institutionalized practices in education (like all other industries in 2014) are being categorically replaced by the promise of technology for a more open (and seemingly endless) access to resources, expertise, information (in varying degrees of relevance and accuracy) Most importantly, technology’s potential to connect individuals, experts and learners from across the globe in real time is quite profound. In the last decade in particular, the classroom with its familiar set up of desks, chairs and chalkboard can potentially be replaced as a monopolizing hub for learning as we can learn anywhere, collaborate locally and globally and frequently do using technology The potential for redefining learning tasks and the struggle to survive and hopefully thrive in this new learning environment, has been experienced by all stakeholders in education including the learner at the center, parents, teachers, administrators and politicians. This post will explore four topics of areas of discussion: curriculum relevance, the role of standardized testing, socio-economic disparities and finally the resistance to change traditionally characteristic of our educational settings. The problem based learning model and approach by Dr. Desjardins is vital to our analysis as we take on the roles of the stakeholders and attempt to identify the problem, current situation, desired situation, obstacles, knowledge and resources towards approaching a solution from one perspective and then from another perspective and so on.

“To begin with, the concept “problem” (P) can be described as being equivalent to the difference between a current situation (Sc) and a desired situation (Sd) or goal, and this difference becomes a difficulty as it is multiplied by the number and size of the obstacles (O) that stand between these.” (Desjardins, 2011 – Source)  

No question that our curriculum has to evolve to make the needs of students today (at least?!) and tomorrow (ideally).  A significant majority of students feel disenfranchised in schools. (Ito et al., 2013) They seem disinterested in both the content and pedagogies that characterize traditional approaches to learning in K-12 environments. (Ito et al., 2013) We, as educators, have to be committed to change, upgrade and re-define tasks if we are to attempt to prepare students for an uncertain future with important life and learning skills. As always, the focus must be on creating an enhanced and connected learning environment rather than teaching technology in isolation. According to Heidi Hayes Jacobs, educators should be upgrading and updating tasks constantly to help prepare students for tomorrow rather than learn the skills of yesterday. She suggests a number of updates to consider: content and assessment (what to keep, cut, create and add to a portfolio?), program structures (by grade, use of time, space), use of technology, media literacy, globalization, sustainability and habits of mind (thinking habits to all succeed in life). A mention of Dr. Punterdura’s SAMR model is also a relevant and important lens to critically and honestly examine all learning with technology. When integrating technology into instruction and learning, perhaps our goal for updating is to move an increasing amount of tasks to the re-definition level. From a curriculum leader or administrator’s perspective, providing opportunities for staff to become connected through school collaboration embedded into their weekly schedule would also aid teachers to plan rich learning experiences (more re-definition tasks) for students. Another invaluable solutions is encouraged our teachers to become connected educators who use external collaborations, social media like Twitter, webinars as well as action research and conferences to aid their students and learning community. The accessibility to leading educators, researchers, academic and pedagogical leaders as well as experts on any topic through digital means (i.e. Skype, email, IM etc.) is too rich a resource for educators and administrators to pass up. In short, creating connected educators with vibrant Personal Learning Networks (PLN) is going to be a more powerful way to upgrade curriculum and learning for students than traditional top-down staff meetings or even one-off conferences.

From the student and parent perspective, each of these stakeholders is keen to experience activities that showcases a student’s strengths and prepares them for future success. Engagement then becomes key and seeking connected learning experiences is one strategy where the learner can participate, learn by doing, face constant challenge and be able to explore the interconnectedness of learning not only to prepare them for the outside world but as an active participant immediately. An example of this is found on the Scratch 2.0 website where enthusiasts of coding and programming from all walks of life are able to share, remix and build programs by topic, function or theme. From collections of projects by topic, subject even principles like loops provide a venue for showcasing and learning skills in a public setting purposefully. Sites like Scratch, Google Apps, Prezi or Voice Thread (link to more by parts of the SAMR model)  where creativity is encouraged and designers have the option to share work to a limited or specific and when appropriate a wider audience will not only motivate and engage but also allow students to become digital leaders with a positive digital footprints upon graduation.

Politicians on the topic of curriculum relevance have to listen to their educational advisors and economic leaders and support initiatives that will allow for graduates to find economic independence and be happy as measured on the Happiness index. As educators in 2014, I think we have the opportunity to leverage a variety of assessment tools including diagnostic to plot a learner’s position on continuum of learning. I find in my practice that some traditional questions (especially when using a combination of open and closed questions) are helpful for a quick check for learning and feedback and this aids both learners and educators. However, at the end of a unit or period of time, when student needs to demonstrate a fuller spectrum of their learning, a digital portfolio of student work, artifacts and achievements is definitely a better gauge of their progress. In 2014, the ability to take pictures, videos and links to digital content (always protecting student’s personal data and likeness) could allow “testing” to reflect a learner’s true perspective especially if curated by them dependent on age. Politicians aided by academics and administrators could then examine student’s created artifacts for specific criteria and benchmarks. This is no doubt a longer process of assessment, especially for those keen on clean and simple numerical data. However, in 2014 I would argue that no one can have their learning boiled down to a grade level or number!  This document shared by a colleague demonstrates the student’s perspective and input on the potential and exciting future possible for students. (source)
student's imagine future of education

Funding and support for open source and publicly funded learning initiatives can certainly aid the digital divide that is taking place in Ontario and to an even greater extent internationally. (Chen et al. 2014) As most initiatives and educational technology move to a cloud based model, access to a web enabled device unlocks a wealth of rich learning opportunities for students. Luckily, the price of one device is becoming increasingly affordable to point of complete market penetration. Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) initiatives in schools can increase the integration of technology in class as along as students who arrive to school without, are provided with a device without stigma or a vast gap in access to tools accessible to others. (i.e. If classes are using tablets, students should not using computers and vice versa.) As educational technology becomes increasingly entrenched in schools, parents with limited purchasing power are going put tremendous pressure on schools to provide devices to maintain equity. Partnerships between companies and schools in need can also be encouraged by politicians and administrators to provide devices in a mutually beneficial exchange of student use for ethical and discrete data collection and research. BYOD can help but can also reinforce inequity and therefore a 1:1 environment with all teachers and students sharing a similar device is more ideal.

Governments also have a role to place in providing funding for technology hardware and seemingly free educational materials (software, digital textbooks,  web based etc.) accessible by all students in a learning community or province. The example of Bitstrips for Schools is one web tool where a powerful and creative online tool is freely available to Ontario students. Administrators and school leaders have an important role in advocating the needs of the students and considering the resources, tools and especially technology to meet the needs of their students.

Educational institutions have traditionally been skeptical to changes and adopting new technologies and learning practices in the classroom is wholly dependent on the teacher. (Chen et al. 2014) This critical approach has merit when the focus is on maintaining a high standard of learning in the classroom but has to shift as the teacher-learner relationship evolves in the internet age. Educators no longer have a monopoly on knowledge and in the information age, students from all ages have the potential for greater knowledge on a specific subject than the instructor. Successful instructors will shift their focus on process and provide opportunities for students to demonstrate a synthesis of their ideas, adapting one format (writing to multimedia or multi-sensory etc.) or even leaving it up to the students (depending on the age) to select their own form of expression to meet the learning goals. This flexible model creates an environment where change is welcome and adapts to the needs of the students. Administrators are also encouraged to support teachers whose innovative practices help their students and by allowing them to share with others in their internal school PLN and external PLN to more input and suggestions. An open approach to new ideas and modes of learning is a strong element of creating a vibrant learning community.

Another important resource for all stakeholders in educators (from the learner to the politician) is the adoption of a growth mindset as proposed by Carol Dweck. By transitioning to a growth mindset rather than a fixed one, all stakeholders in education are encouraged to note that our skills, achievements and practices are not fixed and can constantly evolve to be better and more effective. No doubt failure is an important, necessary and acceptable outcome for new ideas and initiatives. This is so true when working online as “pulling the plug” or horror of ‘no wifi” can bring Plan A to a grinding halt! However, the capacity for new student centered models where parents, educators, curriculum leaders, principals and politicians all work from the mindset that FAIL stands for “First Attempt in Learning” encourages innovation and risk taking that forms the basis for the economy in society today and in the future. Another quote that supports a dynamic of change and innovation is from Heidi Siwak “You are only ever working with your current best idea.” This expression of integrative thinking offers an approach that would help educators and administrators use the tools (in our case technological) currently available to help students but be willing to reflect, critically examine, change, revise and update when a new approach or technology becomes available.

Collaborations, partnerships and connections between many perspectives leveraged through technological tools and face to face discussions and interactions become critical for growth. Creating connected learners, educators, parents and politicians allow all stakeholders to share, debate and discuss new approaches to learning and education. Learners need to feel that they can connect their ideas and interests to curriculum whenever possible through technological tools like social media, cloud based creative and productivity tools, educational games and simulations. Parents need to model themselves as the “primary educator” in their child’s life, supporting a growth mindset and seeking help and be recipients of support when social, societal, economic factors inhibit the growth of their child. Educators need to similarly adopt a growth mindset with their curriculum documents, adapting to the newest, best expressions of technology and supported by investigations and interactions within their PLN. Administrators need to focus on school wide assessment practices of both students and educators to create a vibrant learning environment where each student has an individual learning plan and both educators and students are continuously looking to grow with confidence. Politicians are in a position to look longer term and support Ontario’s citizens in each stage of life, with learners at the center, while considering the needs of parents, educators and learning communities with funding, support and a growth mindset. In short, technology’s promise is tied directly to an individual’s ability to learn, unlearn and relearn as Toffler states below.


Achieving Excellence: A renewed vision for Education in Ontario
, Government of Ontario,  2014.
Digital Learning in Ontario Schools, People for Education, 2014.
Dweck, Carol Mindset, 2007.
Desjardins, F.J. PBL: Thoughts on the “Role” Effect, 2011.
Ito et al. Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design, 2013.
Jacobs, Heidi Hayes (editor) Curriculum 21, 2010.
Puentedura, Ruben R. SAMR and Curriculum Redesign 2014.

Reflecting on my first MOOC – ICT and Primary – University of London & Coursea

Screen shot title

In June, I enrolled in my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and I am pleased to say that I completed all six weeks earning a certificate (with distinction no less!) in this self-directed learning opportunity. Here’s why?  Well, basically, the stars aligned for completing this MOOC for me: as the topic mirrored my everyday professional role as an ICT specialist, MOOC’s  were a recent area of discussion in my latest graduate course and probably the main reason, June means the end of term here in Canada so with some of my own children off to camp I actually had some time to spend on it. And boy was it worth it…

Here are top 5 takeaways from the course. (A link to my full course journal is at the bottom of the page.)

1. ICT provides much opportunity for student learning.

Dr. Laurillard suggests in her book Teaching as a Design Science (Laurillard 2012) that ICT provides learning types or opportunities in the following categories (acquisition, discussion, investigation, practice, collaboration & production.) This model will be helpful for me and my PLN for future lesson planning, collaborations and discussions on technology integration. In the course, there was considerable emphasis on a student’s ability to learn, play and create as a core foundation which resonated with me. Although technology skills are increasingly proving vital for student pursuing academic studies and eventually finding employment, the emphasis of the integration of technology should be primarily focused on creating the best learning opportunity for students.

2. Much can be learned from exploring globally how primary schools integrate technology. 

As teachers we are always so focused on our own schools and students (pupils) that the opportunity to peek through classroom walls (and schools), hear directly from leaders and review specific case studies was a powerful learning opportunity in this MOOC. In particular, a school in Singapore had an excellent 1:1 model which comprehensively involved all members of their learning community. I also liked the emphasis on ICT in UK primary schools away from traditional ICT skills like word processing  towards an updated curriculum emphasizing computational thinking and creative tinkering using technology. Robot arms, Beebots, Probots and other educational programming. Yes, please… In fact, one of the assignments was to make a technology decision for your school, my proposed suggestion was to add more computational thinking opportunities through apps like Scratch Jr., Kodable, Cargo Bot, Hopscotch, Move the Turtle and Daisy the Dinosaur and hardware like Beebots, Probots and Lego We-Do and Mindstorms.

3. I reaffirmed the importance of Computational Thinking and its place in the primary curriculum.

(OK from my blog, you probably figured that I was sold on this one but there are so many interesting resources that I plan to champion in school.)
Here are a few computational thinking resources that I explored in the course.

Developing Computational Thinking. Some interesting ideas and resources from Bosany, Slovakia. Their exploratory approach of Beebots with primary students was helpful and definitely worth adopting.


National curriculum in England: Computing at Key Stage 1 and 2 Wrote about this in my presentation on Scratch at last year’s ECCO conference but the UK is making some bold moves in updating its curriculum to promote programming which is quite commendable.
national curriculum uk2

Computational thinking video by ISTE

In specific to my experience, I would love to implement Beebots, computational programming apps for primary students like Scratch Jr., Scratch among others  and extend use of programmable Lego like We-Do and Mindstorms. This should make for an exciting year.

4. Collaboration and teacher support is vital for the successful integration of technology.

6.1.1 sarah hill image
This theme was echoed in forums, discussions and projects throughout the course. In one part of course, an Australian ICT teacher named Sarah Hill worked side-by-side with teachers at all stages of integrated projects, starting with an initial professional training and development session, followed by collaboration and team teaching when necessary. Although not mentioned in this specific video,  the need for reflection and evaluation after integrated projects is critical but often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the busy classroom and lives of teachers. I try to emulate this practice in my collaborations with teachers emphasizing support and student needs over any of my technology preferences. Other resources explored in the course include Learning Designer, Diigo and Twitter as excellent online tools for teachers to connect and share resources for the successful integration of technology. Increasingly the creation of a online and growing PLN both inside and outside the school is a helpful strategy for teachers.

5. Children love learning with technology. (I can echo this from over 15+ years as an educator and as a parent of two primary digital tinkerers!)

I believe children see technology as “their” medium with so many opportunities for them to explore and create. Even traditional subjects are more motivating when explored through technology. Here is a research paper from UNESCO on the perspective of children.

Read Chapter 7 ‘Students’ perspective’, of the UNESCO Book ICT in Primary Education. Volume 2: Policy, Practices and Recommendations.

Here is a link to a Padlet with some drawing, pictures and perspectives shared by teachers in the course.
‘Children’s Voices’ Padlet Wall:

My #summerofpd continues, next up, a more “MOOCy” madness for me. I have signed up for a fun MOOC on the history of  Beatles (Bring on the (pub) quizzes!?) and on a more professional note off to get my Google certification… (More tests !?)

Here is a link to my Course Journal from my Academic research tab.


Mobiles in the 1 device classroom and beyond

Everywhere you look mobiles are having a dramatic impact on the world around us. Ask yourself…how have you used your “phone” in the last week? I sure your answers are varied and will amaze you.

But what about the classroom…teachers are realizing the potential for the anyplace, anywhere, anytime aspect of mobile devices as an powerful resource for learning, creating and sharing.

“In addition, since the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphone and tablet sales have exceeded PC sales – and the growth trends continue to favor these newer devices. Mobile devices now account for 13% of global Internet traffic – and rising.”


Here are 3 examples of sample activities for teachers in the one device classroom.

1. Use your phone to record (i.e. oral assessments, collaborations and for multimedia projects) I use Evernote, VoiceThread and an app called  Recorder Pro)
2. Take pictures as Assessment as Learning (i.e. spreadsheet with check boxes or take photos for reviewing, sequencing and reflecting)
3. Access and edit critical files (schedules, team lists, check lists, PDFs )through apps like Skydrive, Dropbox and Google Drive (in the last one, up to 50 people can collaborate on one doc, spreadsheet or presentation)

My examples are from the Apple App Store but if that specific app is not available, there are many similar alternatives in other app stores (most are free too!)

With mobile technology (phones and tablets), learning is now anytime and the “classroom” anywhere. Many people are using apps to learn, create, communicate and share in new and exciting ways. However, I believe it is a mistake to focus on the apps themselves. Instead, perhaps the focus should be on how mobile tech. creates new and engaging learning opportunities for ourselves and students. Dr. Puentedura’s research examines how we use the technology to transform and redefine learning experiences for students. See my blog post on Puentedura’s SAMR model which has been a great influence on my integrated approach to educational technology. How can we use this technology to provide new pedagogies to prepare them for the future? As for apps…as the iPad ad says: “there is an app for that!”

Here are some learning opportunities for mobile devices and some example apps.

  1. Read (and discuss) Professional Development articles on your subject or interest (i.e. Zite, Flipboard, Twitter…)
  2. Collect and curate articles, graphics, videos… for sharing (i.e. Delicious, Diigo, Pinterest…)
  3. Scan, display and analyze student work (i.e. HD Scanner, Camera app,)
  4. Create a digital notebook of student work for assessment and sharing (i.e. Evernote, Good Reader)
  5. Transform text into audio (i.e. Qwiki, Speak! or adjust assessability settings in an iPad)
  6. Create a collaborative digital poster (i.e. Padlet, Lino it)
  7. Create a collaborative graphic organizer (i.e. Popplet)
  8. Create, edit and share a slideshow or movie (i.e. iMovie, VoiceThread, Animoto)
  9. Connect your class with experts, teachers  or other classes (i.e. Google Hangouts, Skype etc.)
  10. Write, record, sketch your notes (i.e. Penultimate, Notability)
  11. Compute complex calculations (i.e. Calculator, Numbers etc.)
  12. Organize, share and manage your school calendar (i.e. ITeacher Book, Google Calendars etc.)
  13. Quickly contact groups of students or teachers through text messaging (i.e.  Remind 101)
  14. Make sketches to teach and share (i.e. Educreations, Explain Everything, Show Me)
  15. Sign or annotate and return a .pdf without printing (i.e. Acrobat Reader, Good Reader)

This is list is far from exhaustive and I hope not too overwhelming.

Hopefully, you have had at least one takeaway tip. I have enjoyed sharing my research and ideas from colleagues to help you and your students. Thanks for reading the final tip before summer. (Yippee!)


My Twitter handle for questions and further discussion – @anthonychuter
or further discussion of this topic check out my group project and research on mobile technology in the class.

9 YouTube tips and tricks for teachers

These tips are great for supplementing your own flipped videos uploaded to YouTube or other videos you use in class i.e. Khan Academy.

  1. Tubechop – This site allows you to choose a specific start and end point for a YouTube clip. This is great for reviewing parts of videos in lessons, differentiating clips for students and editing longer videos. I use a one minute per grade guideline (i.e. Grade 5 students should not watch clips of more than 5 minutes) in order to keep instructions short, sweet and specific.
  2. ViewPure– All the great YouTube video goodness minus all the ads and links. I have it on my Internet Explorer+Firefox toolbars for easy use.
  3. Hyperlink to specific point in a video
    1. “It’s possible to link directly to a specific point in a YouTube video. Play the video, and keep an eye on the white blob that moves along the timeline below the video, (the thing you drag to move forwards/back through the video). When you get to the point in the video that you want to jump to, right click on the blob and choose “copy video URL at current time”.

If you now use this link as a hyperlink in your IWB software or PowerPoint, the video will start playing at the point that you chose.”

Number 3 was from this site

4. Video Notes – a very useful web app that allows you to create and save notes with a YouTube clip. Perfect for teachers and students in the flipped class and saves nicely with Google Drive too. Here’s the URL since it is not a top link from a web search.

5. Tubesnack – Create a playlist of YouTube videos. Great for a collection of clips on a particular theme or topic. Share by URL or embed in a website or LMS like Blackboard

6. YouTube to .mp3 converter – Sometimes you just need the audio of a particular clip, this site helps you convert your video clip into audio. Shout out to language and music teachers on this one but all teachers will benefit from another nice handy tool for YouTube.

7. Watch2gether

It ,as its name implies , allows its users to watch YouTube videos simultaneously. You can now share and enjoy YouTube videos with your colleagues (and students) in real time on their devices.

8. EmbedPlus

EmbedPlus enables its users to start their videos at a chosen time , skip self-defined chapters, and add captions and annotations

9. Tubesnack – Enables you to build a YouTube playlist of videos on particular theme or topic.

This is my list of sites that I use frequently in my classroom. Here are two excellent blog posts that I used for reference and contain similar and additional links.

From Danny Nicholson’s Whiteboard Blog

From Med Kharbach’s Educational Technology and Mobile Learning Blog

Creating and sharing graphic organizers using Popplet

digital popplet2
Popplet is a great mind-mapping and graphic organizer tool to aid planning and writing. Not only can you add text to your graphic organizer but you can also add a variety of sketches, graphics and multimedia. Collaborating with multiple authors is easy through a shared link as your file is stored in the cloud. (The hidden notes page is great for assessment or feedback from you!) Finally, the presentation mode allows you to create and navigate through a path of views from one “popple” (box) to another through your arrow keys.

Here are a few screencasts I made, that you are welcome to use in your classes. Lots more available on YouTube.(without my squeeky voice through:P)

Creating an account in Popplet

Getting started in Popplet

Student sample –Gr.4 Canadian physical region
Gr.4 Muslim Influence on the Medieval Europe –
Diversity of Living Things – Educator sample

This software is available in Windows and iOS and recommended for students from Grade 4 and up.

Writing Reflective Blogs in Blackboard

One of the advantages of our password-protected Blackboard site is the option to create a safe place for students to write, collaborate, edit and share. Setting up a blog is a great option for assessing student writing in a simplified format (i.e. not for elaborate Word docs with graphics, interesting fonts choices and backgrounds etc.) and creating and organizing a digital collection of student writing. This blog option can be customized to be private between you and your student or visible to all students in the class or grade for reading, commenting or peer editing. This tool also eliminates the need for transferring documents from home to school using USB drives, email or other online means. Students can login into Blackboard, click on the link and begin writing immediately. You can give direct feedback as a comment and have full control to delete or edit anything posted by you or your students.

There are two steps. In the first video, I demonstrate how to set up the blog and in the second video I cover posting a link for student access.
1. Setting up a Blog in Blackboard

2. Posting a link for student access to the blog

P.S. Remember only student accounts (i.e. 11111) can access the blogs and not the observer parent account (i.e. chu1643)

My top 3 online curation tools for teachers and students

Traditionally as teachers, before we start a new topic or theme with our students, we collect a variety of educational resources (activities, worksheets, games, posters, models, songs etc.) to share in lessons or provide as resources for students in the classroom. Using technology, we can also provide multimedia and other interactive materials like graphics, slideshows, videos, files, websites, social media  accounts, hashtags etc. to enhance learning in our classroom and perhaps beyond. It would seem then that collecting a variety of traditional and digital materials would be an effective strategy to differentiate learning for students and appeal to our classes full of “screenagers” but not quite teenagers.

Here are three sites to help teachers curate educational digital content for discussion, resources and sharing with students. In online courses or blended environments, variety is important to help the visuals interesting while creating vibrant, diverse and educational rich experiences remain vital. All are useful in flipped classrooms too! All these sites are perfect for sharing by a link but work best when “embedded” directly into an online course/LMS like Blackboard or Moodle.

1. Symbaloo 
One online tool allows you to create a web page of links (as symbols) to sites on specific  theme or topic. (I find that the more specific, the better; (Grade 2 Time rather than Math.) Your symbaloo can be shared to students (or parents) as a link through email, Blackboard, Twitter etc. Your symbaloo page might be filled with links to websites but could also include links to graphics (from Google images), videos (from YouTube), even files (I used a link to a file in Google Drive) or any material with a specific URL.

Below is a link to a symbaloo I created for Grade 4-6 students to practice their keyboarding skills using a variety of tools.

keyboarding symbaloo

2. Edcanvas

Edcanvas is a website for collecting and assembling a variety of media (images, Word docs, Power Point, videos etc.) as a single presentation/webquest for students. Your “edcanvas” can be shared by email or posted on an LMS like Blackboard. Older students (Gr.4 and up) might create their own “edcanvas” to research and presentation their learning on a particular topic.

Here is one I made for a Social Studies/ICT project in Grade 5.

3.  Live Binders is one of three excellent websites (Symbaloo, Edcanvas being the others)  to help you collect, curate and present a variety of digital resources for students. Teachers have used Live Binders to build up a collection of images, resources and links on a specific topic. Students (perhaps Gr.5 and up) might also create an account and have their own Live Binder(s) for individual or collaborative research and presentation. Finally, the final product is easily shared with students (and parents) through our LMS (Learning Management System) AKA Blackboard, or email, Twitter etc.

Live Binders for Teachers

Featured Live Binders
(check out the ‘Binders by Grade (scroll down on right of the screen)

Honourable Mention: to MentorMob for the ability to create learning playlists. Next on my list to investigate. Thanks in advance for your comments and suggestions.

Voice Thread with one iOS device or a full lab

vt logo
Once I decide (by hunch or “crunch” from my PLN ) that I am willing to try a particular ed. tech. tool, I immediately start my testing process. As an ICT specialist, I find myself exploring a breadth of digital tools. However, a real depth of knowledge is critical for evaluating whether a tool is effective for a specific age and stage, suitable for curriculum integration and promotes 21st century fluency. One strategy for exploring a resource with depth is to integrate the tool with learning as much as possible over the course of a term with a variety of ages, groups and situations. That way I can really get a handle on its potential and limitations. Over the last year, I have been exploring Glogster EDU, Bitstrips for Schools, Popplet (all great BTW and worthy of review) but this term Voice Thread has definitely been my software of choice. (Ok full disclosure, I recently gained access to the Voice Thread admin. tools which was a huge advantage.) Switching between the app on my IPhone and software on a computer has been an excellent “one-two punch” for creating and recording projects, research and learning.

Voice Thread with One iOS device

Circulating the class with my IPhone, I quickly and easily recorded students’ thoughts, ideas and research in the “hustle and bustle” of the classroom. This term, our Grade 1 and 2 students researched specific topics (animals, mapping etc.) on the computer using the excellent Pebble Go site. As I was circulating, I was able to stop, take a quick screenshot or a picture of their collaboration in action and then record audio of them with my smartphone. Some students shared original ideas but other simply read their research which was an excellent way to record their ideas and learning. This collection of thoughts, ideas and collaboration was not only a good source for sharing but also an effective assessment tool. Listening to their progress allowed me to easily analyze their progress. This recorded information was available to be played for me or the students in the next class so I can extend their learning and cover areas that were missed or not explored in depth. What a great record of informal and formal assessment!

Here is an example. (We have a strict privacy policy at our school so the example is only screenshots and voices. Although not shown I recommend using photos of the students to really bring projects to life.)

Voice Thread for Students

We purchased a subscription for students and I introduced this software in our computer lab to our Grade Three students. We had great fun creating avatars, recording using microphones, webcams and sharing ideas. After a couple of classes to explore built-in tutorials and some specific screencasts from me, students were familiar with the interface and we began to use VT to collect and record our research on the Titanic. VT is an excellent and superior 21st century tool, that allowed us to record student ideas, research, questions and collaborations. Eventually, it became an authentic document and record of student learning and ideas with potential for further study either as an assessment tool or just a fun presentation for parents, students who know the students well.

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the crash and so our school had many activities related the centenary of the disater. It was SO popular and educationally rich we continued with research with this year’s Grade Three (We called it Titanic 2 the sequel!)

Here is our collected research on the Titanic. (This is the non-webcam version to preserve the safety of the students.)
titanic screenshot

I also asked our Grade Five students to create a short “how-to” project using Voice Thread to show their expertise on a topic. My other goal was for them to familiarize themselves with the interface prior to a major research project later in the term.

Here was my Introductory Voice Thread.

Here is an example from one of the students. (Again, I disabled all the webcam clips but hopefully, this will provide some ideas of our progress so far…)
More formal projects were to follow. This year students are studying Ancient China.

Commenting in VT

Commenting is probably the most important feature in VT to transform traditional one-way multimedia presentations into interactive and collaborative research presentations. Users can add a comment by typing, recorded audio, uploaded audio or record using a webcam. With my Grade 5’s, I asked them to create and upload a slide using PowerPoint for students to provide feedback. I also included commenting as part of my rubric to encourage them to make positive contributions to the ideas of others. (see below) I like Tony Wagner’s ideas on this. He provide these suggestions for peer editing “Be kind, be specific, be helpful and give steps” from his The Global Achievement Gap book.

Other resources and tips for using VT

1. Use Avatars for their identities

Ask students to add a cartoon representation of themselves. It provides a personal touch to your projects without giving away any privacy.

Here is a quick list of websites on creating an Avatar.

1. Bitstrips for School (need an account) 2. Lego 3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4. The Simpsons 5. Nintendo Mii

2. Upload Power Point slides

The page templates are the perfect size and are excellent for title pages, bibliographies and collages of pictures. When viewing VT’s in the presentation, the hourglass option allows users to zoom in. Perfect for collage but try to use high res. photos.

3. Use high resolution pictures 

This depends on your audience but expect to use photos at 800 x 600 pixels minimum. You can display the project in a small window but fullscreen is the best. (Go big or go home as the saying goes.)

4. Use identities in creative ways

Students came up with creative uses which were amazing including using different identifities for different character or “experts” in their project. i.e. Now let’s hear from Confucius talk about…) or having a quiz on a page with 2 identifities to represent a sound effect for “right” and another sound for “wrong”.

5. Create a feedback slide

After the projects and presentations, students were encouraged to leave a helpful comment on a specific page in their Voice Thread.
vt dog feedback

Overall, Voice Thread performed very well in a variety of situations (class, lab, groups, pairs, whole class teaching etc.) and with various devices (desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet.) The free app and account make it an essential addition to a teacher’s smartphone (only IPhone or IPad currently) for recording student learning, progress, ideas and collaborations. Our language teachers really loved this tool as they could easily share audio recording and use devices to record student progress for evaluation.

Further Questions

How is this software being used to enhance learning and 21st Century skills?

Prior to using Voice Thread, students researched and wrote for the teacher as the primary audience. With VT, students created a vibrant record of inquiries, questions and learning. The best moments occured when students posed questions about the topics without prompting and the other students responded. This record of facts, opinions and conversations was dynamic and could then be shared to a wider audience within school community including students, parents and teacher through our LMS (Blackboard).

What steps did use to protect the identity of students in this online digital tools?
Voice Thread encourages students to upload a picture to represent themselves when commenting. Instead of a photo, students were asked to create an avatar as way to identify themselves withour giving up any privacy. See my above example from Bitstrips but there are many fun options for students to create safe avatars. (see above)

Next Steps

Consider using he same Titanic presentation with comments for the next year’s group so that students can build upon the knowledge gained from the prior year’s students. However, I’m wondering is that is too much pressure on students to come up with new ideas? Perhaps a new topic would be better choice…