Tech and Teachers

While scrolling through Twitter I came across this tweet from David Warlick (@dwarlick):

It got me thinking about changes in “edtech”. Over the past decade I have attending various conferences and I have noticed a steady change in the content of the presentations. What I am most impressed by is how educators who have embrace “edtech” have moved away from gadgets and doodads and have shifted to looking at technology to innovate education. In other words, my colleagues are not just looking for the next shiny new tool to try out. Instead, they are trying to improve their teaching by taking a pedagogical sound approach to learning. Only then are they trying to find the right “edtech” tool to enhance the experience for students. Sometimes the tool might be a new mobile app, while at other times, it is the use of coloured pencils and chart paper.

To me it looks like teachers are moving away from the shiny new gadget and are instead looking at these tools with the same critical eye we look at chalk or whiteboard markers. The questions about “edtech” tools have also changed from, “How do I fit this into my lesson?” to “Will this help my student to learn?” It is becoming less about the “latest and greatest” and more about how “edtech” enhances the learning experience.

Back to conferences. I have really notice a shift here in Ontario. At a recent conference, the majority of the sessions I attended where facilitated by Ontario educators for whom the pedagogy came first. As the sessions progressed, the “edtech” was demonstrated and explained to the audience while at the same time continually tied back to sound pedagogy. At the same conference I was left feeling puzzled at the end of a keynote that mostly consisted of a list of “edtech” tools. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have done these same presentations, but that was almost a decade ago when “edtech” was still in its infancy. I did not expect it from high profile speakers.

I continue to be amazed at the quality of speakers at Ontario education conferences. Congratulations to all the Ontario educators out there who are modernizing student learning from a factory model to a problem solving model that is more inline with a technological age. I look forward to learning from you at the next conference.

GAFE and Google Classroom

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend EdCampWR with educators from both elementary and secondary schools. They were from both the public and separate school systems. There were even a few administrators, a Google Engineer, an independent school educator, and a few business people. Not a bad mix of people for a Saturday Un-Conference to talk about education.

EdCampWaterlooRegion About Ed Camp Waterloo

There were a couple of discussion I participated in where people were interested in integrating technology into their teaching. Flipped classrooms came up a number of times and I was able to provide a link to my previous blog post about “Flipping the Library” that demonstrated many of the techniques useful to the classroom teacher.

Another topic that came up was how to use Google Classroom. Over the past few weeks I have been working on a collection of video tutorials to show my colleagues the benefits of Google Classroom and how to integrate it into their teaching. These videos along with other resources were collected onto a website to share at an upcoming PD session I will be leading in the near future for the WRDSB. I will be adding a few more videos later this week to finish the video series. I hope you find it useful.

Flipping the Library

sc2016-button-LIIn January, I had the opportunity to present at the Ontario Library Association’s Super Conference with Anita Brooks Kirkland (@AnitaBK). Anita and I co-presented, “Flip Your Library Presentation“. Here is the description:

Now let’s be honest. How effective is the typical school library orientation? We try to pack in as much information as possible, and the chances of our students actually remembering the basic library skills we cover are fairly remote. We know that teaching library skills in isolation is generally inauthentic and therefore ineffective, not being connected to an immediate learning need. Basic library skills are perfect subjects for short, engaging online videos, available at the point of learning, be that in the library, the classroom or at home. Having a bank of these videos has the added benefit of freeing up face-to-face time for deeper collaborative learning experiences. In this session we will explore best approaches to creating and sharing videos using free (and mostly free) online tools, so that you can flip your library orientation!

With 100+ Teacher-Librarians in attendance, we showed the basics for creating a flipped classroom/orientation model that would be ideal in the school library environment. However, the skills we presented were highly transferable and would be beneficial to both public libraries and classroom teachers. If you would like to learn more, take a look at Anita’s website where you will find all the resources from this presentation. You will also find the link to the Lightning Round Panel where we discussed Innovations in the Library Learning Commons.


My Favourite Password Manager

Ok, I am finally taking the plunge into becoming a regular blogger. After so many false starts, I now feel I am ready. It is not that I was not interested in blogging, but I often lost focus and could not keep up with a regular publishing schedule. With this blog I plan to write weekly about things that are of interest to me, possibly other educators, and regular people like you.

By Albaniaman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Today I want to share with you a browser plugin that I can’t live without, it is called LastPass. LastPass is a password manager that can autofill your login credentials for almost any site you access through a web browser. It works on Mac’s and PC’s, as well as mobile devices. I have it on my Macbook, my desktop PC, my Android phone, and my iPad. It currently manages over 150 of my login credentials for my various online accounts. Password managers have become a necessity for many people due to large number of passwords people have to remember.

LastPass Download Page - Screen Capture

How many times have you heard about credit card number or passwords being leaked by a service that you use (Adobe or VTech). If you are using the same username and password on multiple sites and your data was exposed, it is just a matter of time before your other services will be hacked. That is why it is important to have a difficult to guess, long password. Of course you will likely never remember it.

Once you store your information in LastPass, it is accessible by a single unique master password. The application then autofills your data into the appropriate fields and logs you into the site. The best part about this is that you can have long and difficult passwords that you no longer have to remember. That is why I let LastPass generate unique passwords for every site that I register for. The only password I have to remember, is the long unique password I use for LastPass.

LastPass Login Screen - Screen Capture

You can also increase your security by adding 2-factor authentication. But, that is a topic I will leave for another blog post or you can read about it on CNet.

Another security feature is that you can generate one-time login passwords for LastPass that you can store in a safe location. It can be your backup just incase you ever forgot your password. However, as more of our lives become digital, it is becoming more important to leave access information when you pass away. You would want to leave access to you online photo or music collection to your kids. I am also reminded of the story of the woman who spent months trying to access the account of her deceased husband so that she could use their shared mobile device. If LastPass had been used he could have left a one-time password for her to access all their shared account information.

The best feature of LastPass is that it is free. They also have a premium service that I subscribe to. With the premium service all your devices are synchronized. The free version is the exact same but it does not synchronize between devices. For $12 a year, it is worth it.

If you are like me and can’t keep track of 100+ unique passwords, give LastPass or another password manager a try. You can also find out more about LastPass and the importance of long passwords from security expert, Steve Gibson at GRC (Security Now Podcast: LastPass and Password Haystacks).


Hello and Welcome

cropped-refresh-1.jpgIt is another new year and I have set a resolution for myself. Having been inspired by a colleague, Timothy King at Dusty’s World, I plan to blog at least once a week (unlike my other attempts at blogging). The majority of the posts will be education related but some will be my personal musing on a variety of topics.

As for the name of the site,, it is related to the key combination “shift + refresh” when using a web browser. This key combination is used to clear the cache and load a fresh new page. I guess you could say, each post is will be a clearing out of the old and the taking of a fresh new perspective.

I hope you follow me on this journey.