Assistive Technology for the Future

Greetings and Salutations,

I come to you once again (and for the final time this semester) with a blog post on Assistive Technology. I do not have a ton of experience with the use of assistive tech in my class so instead I will focus my thoughts on the type of programs I would love to see more of in the future.

Digital Translations:

With the growing diversity of our student body here in Regina, there has never been a greater need for students to have a digital translation app. While the majority of these new students are attempting to learn English, it is unfair to expect them to master and apply the language so soon after arriving in Canada. Instead if they were able to access a digital translation device on their phone, it would help them understand the instructions/information being given by their teachers. While there are some apps already available, I would like to see this become more readily available for our newest students.

The more we can do to help our newest students, the easier it will be for them to show us what they truly know.  As Educators, our goal is to assess student learning, and if these apps help us do that, then I would like to see them used more frequently.

And that brings us to the end of another semester together! I have enjoyed collaborating with all of you and I hope to see you again on our educational journey.

Goodbye for now,




Technology in Formative Assessment

Greetings and Salutations once again,

This week’s blog focuses on the decision to use technology in formative and summative assessment. While there has certainly been detractors and criticisms of this decision, Sonja and her group did an excellent job of explaining how well technology can aid students when completing assignments for assessment.

While this week’s abbreviated classroom schedule did not allow me to try any new assessment technologies with my students, I do have one tech tools that I have used in the past and have been very happy with.


I would like to focus on is Kahoot. If you are unfamiliar with Kahoot, here is a video explaining the features.

One of the main benefits of Kahoot is the fact that it easily embraces the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) that many schools now focus on.  In a high school setting, nearly 95% of the students in my classes bring a cell phone with them to class every day. For those 5% that do not have one, I allow them to work with a friend so that no one is left out. One of the main criticisms of tech use during assessments is that students will be able to “cheat” by looking up the answer on the Internet, Kahoot solves that problem by attaching a reward for students that answer the fastest.  Therefore, if you are looking up the answer you will waste too much time to try and “cheat” the quiz.

Also, it is important to make your students understand that the use of the Kahoot is for formative assessment only, and therefore there is no reason to cheat, as the purpose is only to help us learn what you know.

The final important point about Kahoot, is that as a teacher, you do not have to create the quiz yourself.  There are thousands and thousands of quizzes already established on the site.  Also, you are able to edit and change quizzes as much or as little as you like, which means you can personalize it to your classroom and student needs.

One of the great benefits to taking a class such as this is the opportunity to learn from the expertise of colleagues. After reading Amy’s blog, I am now interested to try Microsoft Forms as well. In fact, this is a week where I will be reading several blogs in order to strengthen and diversify my abilities and knowledge of technology tools for assessment.  If you have any great ones for me, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!


Education 3.0 – An Evolution of Teaching

Greetings and Salutations,

Today’s blog post will focus on the evolution of teaching on the back of the Internet’s change to Web 3.0. Jackie Gerstein discusses Web 3.0 as a more individualized online experience where “every user will have a unique Internet profile based on that user’s browsing history. Web 3.0 will use this profile to tailor the browsing experience to each individual.” While this certainly sounds promising, part of me wonders if this leads to more Amazon ads popping up all over my CNN articles, showing me products that I searched up hours before. However, in terms of Education, this leads to a more hopeful future where student learning could be adapted to personal needs rather than painting everyone with the same brush.

The following video provides a brief explanation of Education 3.0 and its promise:

Now the exciting thing about Education 3.0 is that it is not same far off ideal that is years away from being realized. The truth is, if you know where to look, that future is now. As this week’s group showed, there are numerous educational programs in place and ready for teachers to access.

For me personally, I have been working to incorporate some of Dan Meyer’s Three Act Play assignments in to my Math Class. For far too long, my math class was taught in an Education 1.0 fashion, having the students master the skills and then apply them to the test. Now, at the conclusion of each unit, the students are working in pairs on an independent research assignment, applying the skills they learned to a “real world” problem.

The more we can evolve and adapt as teachers, the stronger our students will become. I look forward to hearing about the evolutions of your teachings in the comments below.

Internet Distraction and Reliability

The major question emanating from the video was this: does the Internet distract us more than serve as a fountain of information? Well as I prepared to write this blog post I opened the video, only to find an ad playing for the video game Red Dead Redemption 2. Instead of skipping straight to the video, I found myself watching the entire trailer.  So my early answer is yes, the Internet can certainly distract you from your goal.

The (very entertaining) video makes an important point:

As I currently write this blog post, I have Facebook open to chat with other distracted people at work, Twitter up on a different tab to keep up with the news (FOMO!!!) and finally I am also checking Instagram to see how many likes I have on my newest photo (13 so far!)

While some may argue that this is too much distraction and only serves to lengthen the amount of time I need to write, I would disagree. As this Psychology Today article states, “all is likely not lost if interrupted by the occasional text message.” I find the social media distractions allow me a momentary brain break, while I decide on the next point I want to write about.

The final point worth I need to discuss is how the overreliance on technology can backfire and leave your scrambling for cover. Case in point, was our group’s presentation on Tuesday. After a flawless run through at 6pm, we found ourselves presenting only to find that the videos would not work.  While we did our best to hide our frustration, we were truly concerned because our videos were a great source of entertainment and education and I worried that our presentation would be lacking without them.  But yet, a funny thing happened on our way to panic, our presentation ended up going great. In the end, four well-educated and successful teachers were able to rely on the knowledge they had learned and explain it successfully to our audience.

And that is where the most important point lies, as teachers, technology is an incredible source of information that serves to capture the attention of our students.  But technology is no substitute for a prepared teacher holding the attention of students.  If we can create that level of engagement with our students, then the technological aspect only puts us over the top.

You know, unless all of Youtube crashes…


Until next time,

Kyle Ottenbreit

How does Technology change the Classroom?

The first time I watched a John Green Crash Course video, I was hooked. I had recently been assigned to teach a Social 9 class that I had never taught before and was outside of my teaching area. I needed to teach the class about Ancient Egypt and wanted something more interesting than having the students copy notes off the board.

Here was a guy who could explain the information in a more entertaining method than I could, and it was so easy to access with just a few clicks on the computer.

This had me wonder, is this information really worth teaching and having the students “memorize” if access to the answers is only one step away?

This questions takes us to the crux of the issue, for this class and education as a whole, what should we be teaching to our students?

At the base level, teachers have to teach outcomes from the curriculum. However, the methods of teaching that information can be left up to the professionalism of the individual. Therefore, the preferred method I would like to move towards exists in the Redefinition of the SAMR Model.  In my opinion, the age of having students memorize facts for a test is dead. The knowledge is lost as soon as the students finish the exam, because it holds no importance in their lives. Why remember something if Siri could give you the answer in 8 seconds? Instead, we must strive to find ways to give the students the information and have them APPLY the knowledge, rather than just regurgitate it.

This application of knowledge can best be accomplished using the technology that is available to teachers in most classrooms. As Kyla Ortman says in her blog post, “We have the power to lead and show students a variety of technological apps and resources to help benefit their learning.”

But these benefits and efficient uses of technology will not come together easily. In order to reimagine the best type of learning for our students, we must put in the work to create meaningful assignments and will be willing to abandon the trademarks of our past assessments. Only then can we become the teachers we hope to be.

ScreenCastify: Another Google Extension in our Lives

Welcome back for another enlightening blog post everyone!

Today I want to talk about Screencastify, which can be discovered while using Google Chrome. Screencastify is one of the main browser extensions I use and not just in university classes either but also in my classroom.  My main use of Screencastify has been to record and publish my Math lessons to Youtube. A link to one of the lessons can be found here.

One of the biggest benefits to this plan is the ability for the students to be able to slow down the lesson and focus on specific steps they may be struggling with. Despite my best efforts, there is always students who may not understand step 3 before you  move on to step 4 and the ability to watch the lesson in segments should help to alleviate that problem.

This useful Chrome extension is yet another example of how Google is providing educational software free of charge (Screencastify is free, but the videos are limited to 10 minutes in length, however the premium version is very affordable at only $25/year).  However, detractors of Google could think negatively of this as well. In order to access Screencastify, you must be logged in to your Google Plus account. The small price Google pays to allow you to have Screencastify for free pales in comparison to the benefits they net from constantly having you connected to their social media accounts. It is certainly something to consider, but ultimately I will deal with the extra connections in order to access such a valuable tool.

Thanks for reading everyone and I hope to hear about your favourite Chrome extensions in the comments!

Cognitivism to Connectivism: A Pedagogical Shift

Looking back on the beginning of my teaching career, my teaching pedagogy mirrored the way I was taught in high school. The majority of my teachers primarily taught using Cognitivism, which Ertmer and Newby describe as “knowledge acquisition is described as a mental activity that entails internal coding and structuring by the learner. The learner is viewed as a very active participant in the learning process.”  Because I was a successful student in high school, I enjoyed this method of teaching and it became my primary teaching method.

My teaching assignments are generally split between my Major and Minor, which are English and Math. For the purposes of this article I will focus on my Math teaching.

Generally speaking, my math teaching follows this schedule:

Introduce a new concept
Explain an example, slowly going over every step
Allow the students to try a question on their own
Rinse and repeat, increasing the difficulty of the questions
Once an understanding has been reached

I have always believed that this method of teaching is best for a Math class, but now I find myself wondering if there is a better method to teach students in 2018.

After completing my readings, one of the methods that I wish to integrate more into my Math classes is the foundation of Connectivism. George Simens describes it as “Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital.”

If I were to examine this more closely with the lens of a Math 9 course, I would frame it as such:

So many foundational ideas and learning concepts that are taught to students in class can be easily answered via a technology device. An iPhone gives a constant stream of new information given to our students in increasingly efficient ways. Do students need to know how to add and subtract fractions if Photo Math will do the question for them? Or is there a better way to spend our time teaching our students?

I do not know the answers to these questions yet, but I will continue to investigate as I ponder the switch from Cognitivism to Connectivism.

Personal Snapshots of Educational Technology

My personal understanding of educational technology is best examined by taking what I know now and looking back at snapshots of my educational past to see how technology has evolved and grown.

Snapshot #1: Elementary School – All the Right Type

When I think back to elementary school and the technology we accessed, my mind immediately goes to the computer classroom where we would “play” the typing game All the Right Type. Early on, my friends and I would spend our time constantly replaying the first level, trying to see how high of a words per minute score we could achieve. Even know I can remember that first line:

Photo Credit: <;

My school was certainly not alone in these teachings. As Michael Molenda notes: “In the mid-1990’s, student use was still rather mundane, often limited to a few hours per week of drill programs.” While that may not have been the best use of our time, it did develop typing/computing skills that have carried forward to this day. When observing my students now, so many of them use “hunt and peck” because they have little experience placing their hands in the correct spots and because they communicate by typing on their phones and they could do that infinitely faster than I could.

Snapshot #2 High School – Overhead Projectors

I graduated high school in 2002 and the main technology aspect of my time was the use of overhead projectors and writing notes down over and over and over. Memorization and regurgitation was a heavy emphasis at that time, the constant cycle of writing notes until your hand was sore, memorizing those facts for the test and forgetting them as soon as the test was over. This was certainly not the best way to learn and thankfully most people have advanced past this method of teaching.

Snapshot #3 Teaching Now – iPhones

All of these technological innovations (which were certainly all amazing for their time) have led us to the world we live in now as educators, where nearly every student has a phone in their pocket that gives access to more knowledge than we could ever have. The ease and speed with which smart devices can deliver answers makes me question what is truly important for us to be teaching to our students. Should we teach solving equations if PhotoMath will instantly solve the entire equation? Is there any facts worth memorizing for a test if they can always be accessed on Google? At the same time, as technology advances, it can be seen as perhaps more important than necessary. Neil Postman states: “technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to take more control of our lives than is good for us.” These questions are not just for individual teachers to consider, but foundation shaking questions that could change the entire education landscape.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter.

Until next time,

Kyle Ottenbreit