My googledocs obsession!

This blog entry was originally posted in Audrey McGoldrick’s blog – McSquared

I have written a lot about how I use googledocs to track my students in my flipped classroom. If this is your first time reading my deep thoughts, then here are a few of my earlier posts that lead up to this one:
the googledocs checklist, how it looks to the teacher, handling all the gorgeous data, parent reactions.

Well, now I’m using my beloved checklists as a two-way communications device.  I’m finding that just showing the kids the results of their updates is having a huge impact. At the very least, the ones who update everyday love to see how pretty it looks as a spreadsheet, AND, believe it or not, that seems to motivate the others to update more often, and hence be more organized, because they like to see all the pretty colours! And no one wants to see any red.

More importantly, though, showing them their own week-at-a-glance gives me a way to communicate with them in case I don’t get to them in class. It also enriches our time in class in ways I hadn’t even anticipated!

Here’s the routine I’ve fallen into so that I can quickly assess their progress on the fly, give feedback, and more importantly, get feedback:

Every day:
     To handle the INCOMING info (from students to me): I:

  • check for their updates
  • colour updates with day of the week, using an abridged and pastelled version of roygbiv:  (Mon = orange, Tue = yellow, Wed = green, Thur = blue, Fri = pink, Sat/Sun = lilac, any day after that = deep purple)
  • check for items I can verify, ie if they say “I left a comment on voicethread” I go to voicethread and verify, or if they say “uploaded to dropbox” I check their dropbox

 OUTGOING info (from me to student): I:

  • insert comments aimed at the students (not just at me like before) as necessary “ie received” or “not rec’d” or “good comment” or “way to go” (to insert comment, right click on cell in spreadsheet)
  • flag, with bright orange, anything that doesn’t check out – ie they say they handed something in but I don’t see it, or the comment didn’t appear at voicethread
  • check for any entries with “need help”, then flag that with bright orange also
  • after all comments are in, and all flags shaded, rearrange in order by student (using data > sort)

      IT’S GO TIME: Now I’m ready for the dialogue! Next class I:

  • give them whatever feedback I have put in the comments
  • talk to them about anything that’s flagged bright orange – ie if they say they did something but I can’t see it, or if they said “need help”, we talk about that (note that if I don’t get to someone, I know that they will still see my comment, at least at the end of the week)
  • document that by inserting another comment, like “helped with #3” or “did the worksheet but forgot to upload”
At the end of the weekend:
      Summarize the week’s communications, INCOMING, OUTGOING, whatever, as soon as the Sunday
night deadline is up. I:

  • check each student’s data  for missing items, and flag those items with red.
  • check for students that haven’t checked anything all week and make a manual entry for them, which I then shade completely red.
  • go to “view list”, “show colours”, then display one child at a time
  • take a snapshot, and send it to them
  • if necessary, send their parents the snapshot
  • next day in class, process, discuss, suggest, encourage self-assessment
Interpreting their snapshots:
  • If it looks like this:

    I can safely assume they are at least checking in on a regular basis. Note at the bottom are my comments, in footnote form.

  • If it looks like this:

    they might be cramming everything in too short a time.

  • And how unappealing is this:

    This is someone who is either forgetting to update (in which case, they’re missing out on a lot of connection potential with me, and I’m missing out on a lot of data about how they work), or they’re not doing anything, in which case, intervention of some kind is needed, and easily set into motion with one look at all the red.

Other enrichment that’s happening:

  • The things I discover during some talks: one student has been asking me for help before watching the videos! He was frank about it, and knew it couldn’t go on. Another admitted she was simply copying her answers then handing it in like that. All I had to ask her was where is your work, and she caved like a tower of jello. I’m not saying I am the first teacher to discover this kind of thing, and I’m not really shocked, it’s just that it seems to be their own consciences at work here, because we are talking one one on one.
  • Some kids will never ask for help in class, but they will via the checklist.
  • Whenever they have the chance to type an answer, rather than check off one from a list, it makes for interesting reading. I asked for their feelings about their test results, and here are some of the things they wrote:

Should have taken my time but I think my score was pretty good, but I should have done better

I hate the fact I made a silly mistake on a MULTIPLE CHOICE question…. But I’ll survive. Loved the test, not too hard! 😀

I had 100% already so i compared my solutions with my classmates to discover the different ways of solving the problems

I think i did very well considering how difficult it was for me to understand all the work. I studied hard and it paid off


  • Some kids won’t ever ask for help, no matter what , so I want to more regularly question kids individually.
  • I still need to get them collaborating more. I had hoped it would happen organically, like they would group themselves according to what they were currently working on. Today, 4 kids actually asked to work together, which is a first, but for the most part, they don’t.
  • I need to give them work that lends itself to collaboration. Malcolm Swan comes to mind.
  • Time to use those google accounts for self-correcting quizzes, a la Andy Schwen! I wrote my own set of instructions for this back in July, and now I’d better re-read those and hope my own post makes sense to me….
Now I just have to figure out a way to do all this and NOT spend every waking moment on the computer, so that my family won’t disown me…..another post entirely. Maybe even another blog entirely.

Telling It Like It Is: Action research and asking the right question

Art (c) Todd Berman

I was animating a short morning session on the practice of Action Research last week. It was Friday, to be exact, the kind of rainy morning you wished you were cocooned in a bathrobe somewhere or sipping a nice mug of tea.The attendees were all teachers participating in a formal research study conducted by Concordia University here in Montreal. I had long thought that one of the things that would round out this research in the eyes of practitioners was the voice of the participating teachers themselves. What was it like in the classroom when they introduced the new computer-based tools? What did they do about little Johnny who can’t sit still long enough to write his name, never mind do his Daily Five? And what about the noise? People love stories. Teachers love classroom stories.

But is it enough to tell a good story? For a story to be compelling for educators, it has to answer a question or, perversely, to ask one. This is where qualitative approaches to educational research come in. I decided to go with Action Research because of its simplicity and straightforwardness. In fact, rather than providing my work-session teachers with a definition of the  term action research, I asked them to brainstorm what it might be, based on the two words that comprise the term. I noted their responses on a slide in the Keynote presentation we were working from:

Real Action Research Brainstorm

Intuitively, working with what they knew, the teachers were able to come up with the basic salient features of action research in about two minutes flat. Together, we found that

“Action Research is a fancy way of saying: let’s study what’s happening in our [classrooms] and decide how to make [them] a better place.” (Calhoun, 1994)

One of the main goals of Action Research is to lead to changes and improvements in teaching practices, and thus make schools (or online classrooms) better places to learn. More powerful than the most sophisticated workshop PD, action research is the cornerstone of reflective practice. Teachers who ask questions about their own practice and then decide on ways to take action are taking a mighty leap into self-driven learning (the kind we wish for all our students, no?). And if those same teachers follow up their planning with concrete action and the gathering of data about what they did, with reflection and sharing rounding off the cycle, they are engaging in the same kind of professional learning practiced by members of other professions, such as doctors. After all, why should they have all the fun 😉

The official Action Research cycle often looks something like this:

My version of an action research spiral

If you want to do some action research in your own practice, whether you are a classroom teacher, a consultant, a pre-service teacher or any other type of educator, you will probably want to begin by asking a question. A good question has the following attributes:

  • It comes from your own practice
  • It is in your sphere of influence (i.e. you can do something about it)
  • It assumes that you are where you are

A question from your own practice

Often we are told what is important by others. Equally often, some issues become trendy and frequently discussed. But these might not be important to you at this time. So ask yourself: “What is important to me? What do I care about? What do I feel will make the most difference?” and choose a question that speaks to your teacher’s heart, no matter what the pundits tell you is important. Your school is different from other schools and your group of students is unique. You have the best insights as to where you need to put your energies and you will approach the issue with more zeal if it comes from you.

A question that is in your sphere of influence

Asking a question like: “I wonder if a shorter school day would be beneficial to my very active cohort of students” might be very interesting indeed, but might not be possible to explore. Your question needs to be something that you can answer by taking action. You could ask instead: “How can I use the very active nature of my students to help them learn math?”

A question that assumes that you are where you are

It’s no good asking a question whose scope is so far beyond you that just looking at it makes you break out into a cold sweat. A novice computer user should not, for instance, ask: “How can I integrate a variety of Web 2.0 tools into and across my curriculum?”. He or she might be better off with: “How can I set up and use a classroom blog?” which is more focused and manageable for a novice. (And speaking of classroom blogs, here is a great one from Mary Ellen Lynch’s Cycle 1 classroom).

The challenge

“Action research happens “in the swamp” where we live our day-to-day successes, frustrations, disappointments, and occasional miracles.” (Russell, 1997). I’ll be adding additional posts about action research between now and January. My challenge for you today is to ask a question from your practice and take the time this school year to engage in some action research of your own. Share your questions here! I would love to see them! We might discover some miracles along the way.


For more about Action Research:

Russell, Tom. (1997). Action Research: Who? Why? How? So What? An Introductory Guide for Teacher Candidates at Queen’s University. Found at on October 7th, 2011

e-Lead: Leadership for Student Success – Action Research section. Found at on October 14th, 2011.

McNiff, J & Whitehead, J.  (2005).  Action Research for Teachers: A Practical Guide.  London, David Fulton Publisher


Sylwia Bielec

Educational change: “Do as I say not as I do”?

How often have we stood in front of our students and said “Don’t be shy to speak up if you don’t understand” or better yet “Ask questions, that’s what I’m here for”? I know I’ve spoken my share of those words in a classroom.

How about when students have to present a project or do a presentation and they give some excuse about how they forgot material at home or their USB key isn’t working? I know that frequently my answer was “You should have had an alternate plan in the event that something such as this occurred”.

What about “You shouldn’t be afraid to try new things, take a chance, don’t be shy”? I’ve uttered those words in some way, shape or form at some point as well.

It was only a few weeks ago when I began teaching students in a Science and Technology course online. Wow! Talk about a path to self-discovery. I was terrified. How would I deal with classroom management when I wasn’t present in a real classroom? What about a blackboard and chalk? I would always complain about how dry and dusty chalk would make my hands and now I was experiencing withdrawal! What about the technology glitches? What would happen if I couldn’t access my slides or if there was some sort of problem with my headset? The list went on and on. I am here, still alive to talk about it today though.

This experience led me to question what educators really fear when it comes to using technology in the classroom or in my case, technology as the classroom. Are we being hypocrites when we tell our students not to be shy to ask for help when we are afraid to ask for help with using technology in the classroom? As teachers, we know that something may not work right off the bat. What do we do? We have a plan B, just in case. So our fear of experiencing problems with technology, couldn’t we have a plan B as well? I’m sure some of you skeptics are nodding and rolling your eyes. I probably would be too and by no means am I an expert but change is taking place now. Let’s embrace it instead of fearing it! Easier said than done, I know. Change is something that happens slowly and taking baby steps is easier than taking a giant leap forward. With each small step, confidence will build. Isn’t that something that we as educators try to instill in our students? Isn’t that the whole point of life-long learning?

Educators are beacons that guide and steer. We encourage our students to take risks in order to learn more effectively. Perhaps we should learn from the objectives and standards we set for our students.

Here are a few inspirational clips that have helped me in my journey:

Technology is NOT the Enemy

Shift Happens 2.0

What are you doing to embrace educational change in the form of technology?

Alessandra Pasteris
Pedagogical Consultant and Online Teacher

24/7 Learning

As money gets scarcer, it becomes harder to get to conferences and other professional development events. In the twenty-first century, this is not a reason to miss out on professional development.  There are more and more alternatives both synchronous (you meet in a virtual space at a specified time) or asynchronous (the session is recorded and may be watched / listened to at any time). Each has advantages. All the virtual conferences listed below are free – and in this case the price does not reflect the value. Top educators from around the world have contributed to these conferences.

Preconference Keynote: November 21
Week 1 sessions: November 28 – December 2
Week 2 sessions: December 5 – 9

For the past five years, I have been participating in the K12 Online Conference. I have learned so much from the many educators who have freely shared their practice.  Most of the sessions are asynchronous – not more than 20 minutes long. All sessions have been archived from 2006 to the present. You can watch at your leisure, learning from teachers and other educators from around the world. You can download them or watch online. It’s great to watch some sessions with fellow educators to spark discussion. This year the sessions will be posted, starting with the keynote on November 21. The following two weeks will feature 4 new presentations each week day with sessions aimed at every level of technology user. The thrust is pedagogy and education in general and how technology can help provide powerful learning situations. (Disclaimer – this is the second year that I have been on the organizing committee).

 November 14 – 18

The Global Education Conference will be held for the second year between November 14 – 18 in Blackboard (a kind of virtual classroom).  Sessions are synchronous, but all are archived so they can be watched later, but, or course, you would not be able to participate in the chat room to ask questions. From their site ” Sessions will take place in multiple time zones and multiple languages over the five days. The 2010 Global Education Conference had 15,028 unique logins and presentations from 62 countries.” I managed to attend some sessions last year and they were of very high quality. The chat room also gives you the opportunity to interact with other educators and perhaps, find partners for projects. Last year’s archive is still available.

November 2 – 3

A new conference this year is the Library 2.011, taking place on November 2 and 3. It is sponsored by the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University. Although it is not aimed specifically at K12 Education, I am sure there will be many sessions of interest to school librarians. The schedule should be available shortly.

LEARNING 2.0: The Future of Education January 2012
A new conference is on the horizon, spearheaded by Steve Hargadon. It will be held in January. I’ll keep you posted as I learn more. Steve Hargadon hosts a series of interviews with educational leaders. You can learn about upcoming interviews and  listen to the archives of past shows here.

 Classroom 2.0 Live is not a conference, but a weekly show (though it is on hiatus for the month of October). Each week there is a guest educator who shares classroom practice often around the use of technology. All shows are archived as well as all the resources the guests provide. I know there are some Quebec educators who have participated (I’ve met them when I have been there) and whose students have profited from what their teachers have learned.

Learning can now take place any time, anywhere. It can be done in small increments (20 minutes for a K12 Online session) so you don’t get overloaded. You can watch a session more than once if you missed something or just need a refresher. I know I have watched a few several times as I have either needed a refresher, a boost, inspiration or wanted to share with a colleague. You can pick and choose the sessions that are of interest to you and watch them at a time convenient to you.

One teacher in Shanghai held a LAN (local area network) party, inviting his colleagues to watch sessions together along with food and drinks. It was a great way for colleagues to learn together in an informal atmosphere and to have discussions about education and about changes they wanted to see in their own schools. I have used his model and invited colleagues – it resulted in some great conversations. We want to help our students become lifelong learners. What better way to show them that learning doesn’t stop when you leave school, than to model it ourselves.

Have you taken part in an online session – synchronously or asynchronously? How did it contribute to your learning? Please recommend some sessions you have watched.

Susan van Gelder

Projet: culture à l’écoute !

Je cherchais une activité intéressante à faire avec mes élèves en français, langue seconde. J’avais en tête un projet qui développerait la compétence à produire un texte oral, qui serait significatif pour eux, qui serait authentique. Je voulais également essayer d’intégrer la technologie… un peu, étant donné la rareté des ressources technologiques à ma disposition en salle de classe (voir mon billet précédent Technologie 101). Je désirais également inclure un aspect culturel, introduire les repères culturels du contenu de formation du PFEQ du MELS (p. 178-179).


J’avais entendu parler de ce projet :

Culture à l’écoute! Des audioguides pour tout le Québec!

J’ai décidé d’en savoir plus.


J’ai donc contacté Sandra Laine, conseillère au Service national du RÉCIT, Domaine des langues qui est responsable du site Baladoweb.




Les élèves sont invités à réaliser des balados, sous forme d’audioguides, pour faire connaitre leur environnement culturel immédiat. L’épicerie du quartier, le nom d’une rue, un plan d’eau, une sculpture, une architecture, un point géodésique gravé sur un trottoir, tout s’avère digne d’intérêt.

Ils enregistrent leur production, à l’aide d’un logiciel d’enregistrement audio, d’une durée variant entre une et quatre minutes en portant attention à la diction, au niveau de langue, au rythme, etc.

Avec l’aide de l’enseignant, ils déposent leur enregistrement (MP3), qui peut contenir des images fixes (MP4, FLV, WMV, M4A), sur le site Baladoweb.

Tous les balados enregistrés seront géoréférencés, ce qui permettra de les écouter, de les visionner in situ par le biais d’une triangulation satellite (GPS) offerte sur la plupart des technologies mobiles.

En fin de parcours, il leur sera possible de produire un circuit touristique afin d’inviter les touristes à venir visiter le Québec (leur région)!



Vous trouverez toutes les informations pour mener à bien ce projet sur le site Baladoweb, dans la section Audioguides. Vous y trouverez :



Pour déposer les capsules produites par vos élèves sur le site web, vous devez vous inscrire auprès du conseiller RÉCIT de votre région.



Un clip promotionnel du projet Culture à l’écoute!
Un exemple de réinvestissement possible du projet.


Oui, je vais participer à ce projet avec mes élèves de FLS. Et vous?
Julie Paré



Interaction or Interactivity? How we use IWBs and electronic tablets

L’original de ce texte à été publié en français le lundi, 3 octobre, 2011.
This is the English version. 

Interaction ou interactivité?

The current adoption of IWBs (Interactive White Boards)by educators, coupled with the growing popularity of tablet computers in schools brings up an oft discussed and sometimes hotly debated notion: interactivity. So ubiquitous is the idea of interactivity, and so apparently clear its benefits, that when asked about the inherent advantages of IWBs or tablet computers, the automatic response is usually “Why, it’s interactive!”

But what do we really mean when we call something ‘interactive’? Are the educational acts described when we discuss IBWs and other technological devices really an example of interactivity? Are there any real advantages to structuring learning that is interactive?

 “This tool is interactive!”

Often, listening to some teachers talk about their device of choice is enough to understand what they mean when they call it ‘interactive’. He or she might say that students can get up and go to the board to execute a simple operation (ex.: pressing on a specific section of the IBW to answer a multiple choice question). Interactivity, in this case, is limited to the fact that the student has manipulated the board in a way not much different from the way he or she would work with a good ol’ fashioned exercise book. But is this really a true description of interactivity with the technological tool of choice, or are we really talking about interaction?

Interaction and interactivity

There are many ways of defining ‘interaction’. However, the generally accepted one is the reciprocal action or influence between two entities.  Meanwhile, the term ‘interactivity’ is used to designate the degree of responsiveness between a person and a technology (be it device or software or both). In education, the term is also imbued with the idea that interactivity is beneficial to learning, because it implies a continuous exchange between learner and device. The table below illustrates some of the ways in which the terms ‘interaction’ and ‘interactivity’ differ when it comes to student learning.

These two categories of examples highlight some of the key features of interaction vs. interactivity:

Interactivity requires a more complex level of engagement on the part of the learner than that required by interaction. In an interactive situation, the learner is called upon to modify their behavior/responses based on the changing needs of the situation.

How can we make interactivity happen? Why is it important?

Interactivity is an integral part of the conversation around integrating technology into educational practice. As educators, we need to make the distinction between basic interaction with technology and the more complex processes involved in interactivity. In order for interactivity to take root, we must create the pedagogical situations that encourage and foster it. A student manipulating an IWB or an electronic tablet in order to answer questions or complete simple exercises is not engaging in the same kind of learning as a student creating a personal or collective work or solving a problem. The student who creates, composes, solves, produces and collaborates has more chances of engaging with the technology in a way that makes him or her the principal agent of his or her learning.

This is not to say that so-called traditional exercises are in and of themselves a bad thing. It’s just that, in my opinion, putting aside the all-too-short-lived wow-factor (and who, exactly, is being wowed?), it isn’t necessary to use an IWB or an electronic tablet to complete them (I am NOT talking here about the particular or special needs of students that make the use of differentiated technological tools necessary and justified).

Overall, I think that getting the most pedagogical value out of the interactivity promised by the new technologies at our disposal in schools is a sure way to get the most bang for our buck. We need to also keep uppermost in our minds the real value of interactivity, what it means for our students, and how to make it happen for them. For their benefit, but also for our own.


Kish Gué
Pedagogical Consultant

Translated by Sylwia Bielec, ed.

Interaction ou Interactivité: notre utilisation des TBI et des tablettes électroniques

L’avènement des TBI (tableaux blancs interactifs) et l’apparition des tablettes électroniques dans le monde de l’éducation a mis en relief une notion à laquelle nous faisons de plus en plus référence: l’interactivité. En effet, lorsqu’on nous demande les avantages inhérents à l’utilisation des TBI ou des tablettes électroniques, nous avons tendance à rapidement mentionner, et cela presque machinalement, que ceux-ci sont “interactifs”.

Interaction ou interactivité?

Qu’entendent les pédagogues par “c’est interactif”? Ce qu’ils décrivent est-il réellement de l’interactivité? Qu’est-ce que l’interactivité? Y a-t-il de réels avantages au développement de l’apprentissage dans un contexte interactif?

“Cet outil est interactif…”

Il suffit de d’écouter un enseignant parler pour comprendre ce qu’il veut dire par “interactif”. Souvent, il parlera du fait qu’un élève se lève, se rende au tableau blanc et y opère une opération simple (ex. appuyer sur un endroit spécifique du TBI dans le cadre d’un choix de réponse). L’interactivité, dans ce cas, se limite donc au fait que l’élève ait manipulé le tableau et donc à une simple opération ou parfois à une suite d’opérations qui souvent, ne sont guère différentes de celles auxquelles ce dernier peut se livrer dans un bon vieux cahier d’exercice. Mais est-ce là la description d’une interactivité avec l’outil privilégié ou plutôt celle d’une simple interaction?

Interaction et interactivité

Plusieurs définitions se prêtent au mot “interaction”. Cependant, le sens général qui lui est attribué porte sur une réaction réciproque entre deux phénomènes ou deux personnes.

L’interactivité, quant à elle, est plutôt utilisée pour désigner un échange entre un humain et une technologie. Dans le cadre de l’éducation, elle comporte également un processus qui présente des comportements favorisant le développement de l’apprentissage et cela, dans le cadre d’un échange continu. Dans le tableau ci-bas figurent des exemples qui illustrent des différences notables entre des actions que je considère comme étant des interactions et des activités favorisant ce que je considère être de l’interactivité.

Gestes vs. activités

Ces deux catégories font ressortir des différences dignes de mention.

Différences notables dans ce qu'impliquent l'interaction et l'interactivité

Dans le contexte de l’interactivité, plus complexe que celui que requiert l’interaction, l’apprenant est, entre autres, amené à modifier son comportement selon les besoins de la situation.

Pourquoi et comment favoriser l’interactivité?

Lorsqu’on parle d’intégration de la technologie en éducation, je crois que l’interactivité est incontournable. En tant que pédagogues, nous devons cependant faire une différence entre une interaction et une interactivité. Si nous voulons que celle-ci porte fruit, elle doit nécessairement avoir une incidence sur le choix d’activités organisées par l’enseignant. Contrairement à un apprenant qui manipule un TBI ou une tablette électronique dans le simple but de réaliser des exercices, l’élève placé en situation de création de contenu ou de résolution de problèmes aura plus de chance de vivre une interactivité riche de sens qui lui permettra d’être l’un des acteurs principaux dans le développement de son apprentissage.

Ceci étant dit, je ne pense pas que les exercices dits traditionnels constituent en soi une mauvaise chose. Je pense simplement que dans ce cas, outre le facteur “wow, c’est cool”, il n’est pas très pertinent d’utiliser un TBI ou une tablette électronique (je fais ici abstraction de besoins particuliers qui parfois nécessitent une différenciation tout à fait justifiée et souhaitable).

Enfin, je pense que profiter de l’interactivité que permettent les nouvelles technologies constitue un pas sûr dans la réalisation de leur potentiel. Nous nous devons cependant de constamment réfléchir à l’importance et à la valeur réelle de ce phénomène, tant pour notre bénéfice que pour celui de nos apprenants.


Kish Gué
Conseiller pédagogique