Trying to Define Blended Education

I attended the BlendEd symposium on Oct. 25&26, 2015 in Edmonton, Alberta. It was great to see people from all across the country meeting to talk about what Blended Education means and what it looks like in our schools. The term gets used a lot with distance education and with High School Redesign, and although the term has been around as long time, there is no definitive definition that everyone can agree on.

Here is my attempt at defining Blended Education. This is just my first thoughts on the matter, however. I look forward to thoughts and opinions that challenge my assumptions and I hold the right to change my position as I learn more about it.

Blended Education occurs when a professional educators use technology to reduce the barriers created by time and space in order to apply effective pedagogical practices that meet the needs of a wide range of learners.

We know that the Carnegie Unit does not ensure learning. We know that students do not need to be in a classroom to learn, and that learning doesn’t only occur between 8:30am and 3pm. We know that just because a teacher has said it, the students are not necessarily going to understand it and remember it. We also know that the digital world can produce all kinds of Analytics and metrics that teachers (not algorithms) can use to make teaching and learning more efficient. We have discovered how to use game theory, inquiry, experience and authenticity to improve learning. BUT, our current paradigm of education prevents us from applying what we know. Our education system is locked in an 8.5″ x 11″/.pdf world, unable capitalizing on our knowledge of teaching and learning.

Blended Education is an attempt to change that. It is using new technologies in ways that transform teaching. Most importantly, it utilizes the social components of new media to foster the relationships between students and teachers. Blended Education is not computers and Apps teaching students. Rather, it is teachers using technology to build relationships, discover their students’ learning needs, and then breaking down the constraints of a thirty-seven minute, four-walls-and-a-door, 9:48am class to meet those needs.
I would love to hear your thoughts…

Reflecting on Teaching with Chromebooks

In 2012, I wrote a post on
Chromebooks in the Classroom where I was attempting to predict which features of Chromebooks would make them a great tool for teaching. I actually wasn’t that far off, although I did over exaggerate the idea of pushing out apps to all students and I undervalued the role the students Google Profile has. Since that post, the number of Chromebooks has increased dramatically. Three years later, at the time of this post, we are at 26,452 Chromebooks in EPSB. That is one Chromebook for every 3.3 students.

This summer, I used Chromebooks with my students.  I decided I would try to be a paperless as possible and use the Chromebooks as often as I could. In fact, each day the students took a Chromebook as they came into class and would return it to the cart at the end of the day. It gave me a chance to try out a few ideas and discover some new things about them.

The Cons (and some solutions)

Time off task

I use my cell phone for almost everything, and I encouraged students to use their cell phones as learning devices. However, as mentioned above, they also had a Chromebook with them all class. Rarely did they ever need both screens. As a result, some students
were too distracted by (or attracted to) their phones. Depending on the task, I found I could solve this problem by allowing students to choose the screen they wanted to work with. If they choose their phone, they had to put away the Chromebook. If they choose the Chromebook, they had to put away their phone. I am not naive. I know that they were still distracted by their phones, but it made the class management much easier and the incidences of being “obviously off task” diminished.

It is also very easy for students to go down the rabbit hole that is the internet when they are looking up information or completing work. I did have to make sure I used proximity a lot for certain students. I used Google Apps as well and I was able click into their assignments while they were working on them to check up and provide some formative assessment, which helped them to stay focused. I could combine  proximity and the benefits of shared docs by using the Google Classroom App on my phone while I moved around the class. I also think there is a place for the teacher to have web tracking software. When a student is struggling with the lesson or having difficulty staying focused, it would be nice to have a record of their web history that can’t be erase. Its great to be able to use this undeniable evidence to lead a discussion about search skills, web reading skills, and how to deal with distractions. To be clear, I am not suggesting screen monitoring software, but rather web tracking software like GoGuardian.

The Pros

Time on task – No, this isn’t a contradiction. 

The things that impressed me the most was the time on task. The short start time and the speed (Acer 740s) meant that they could get to work fast. The first time students log into a device can always be tricky; students mistype, they forget their password, or there might be an error with their profile. Fortunately, with Chromebooks we were able to identify the problems immediately. We didn’t need to wait for the login window to spin and spin before it bounced back with an erroIMG_20150723_124621r. All the issues were password related, which I was able to find in Powerteacher to quickly get the students up and running. As much as these tools can be a distraction which leads to time off task, their speed and simplicity mean that there is less down time. Students could have a sleeping Chromebook up, online and working in less than a second.

Reducing Paper

Chromebooks and Google Classroom are a great combination. Classroom is a fantastic tool for handing out digital activities, sharing links and posting information. The collaborative nature of Classroom means that everyone on a Chromebook can quickly access the information, tasks and assignments. There are a myriad of ways to do this with other tools, but the pairing of Chromebooks and Classroom through the students’ Google Profiles is quite powerful. I had some handouts that I scanned into PDF that I handed out in class, and I also took the opportunity to chuck out some old material and found links to new material that was much more relevant. For example, I used to talk about artificial majorities in Canada with an article that was well written, but referred to the Reform Party of Canada (which no longer exists). This year I was easily able to update it to talk about the NDP in Alberta. Every election in Canada will have a story about artificial majorities, and because I am not bound to paper copies, I can update the content of the lesson without running off stacks of new, paper articles. I also liked sharing docs and pdfs in Classroom because I never had too many or too few copies. Truthfully, this process could have been done on any digital device, but the ease and low cost of a Chromebook ensured that everyone had access to the lesson materials.

Feedback from Students

Not every student enjoyed using the Chromebooks. Three students in my class said they prefered paper. For the record, I did not force them to use the Chromebook and they were more than welcome to take notes however they wanted. Some used the Chromebook exclusively, a couple used paper exclusively and many used a hybrid of paper notebook and Chromebook. That being said, the majority of students liked how easy and efficient Chromebooks were. As often as we worry that the computer can be a distraction, some of my students said the Chromebooks actually helped them stay focused and better organized. Our students are becoming more digital, not less, and I can only imagine that their attitude and desire to learn on the internet will increase over time, and that students will become increasingly more comfortable with Chromebooks or other cloud-based devices over notebooks.
In the end, I don’t think I could teach without Chromebooks or other fast, inexpensive cloud based devices. Please add the things you love or hate about teaching with Chromebooks in the comments below.

Yes, You Can Showcase Students and Their Work Online

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It is often used as an excuse as to why we shouldn’t post videos of student learning or start a class twitter account. It is good to understand your jurisdiction’s FOIP Consent form in order to know what parents are permitting you to do with their child’s information. This is all the more relevant in today’s digitally connected society where the internet is a ubiquitous public space that we frequently utilize for teaching and learning.

Before we look at the FOIP form, it is important to note that they form is only the one step in the process. You must inform parents on how you are using their child’s information on the internet. You don’t need a new form every time, but if you decide halfway through the year to do a project that will go on YouTube, you need to let the parents know. Nobody likes surprises, and informing them gives them the option to back out, which is their prerogative.

Here are the elements of the FOIP form from Edmonton Public School that deal with posting information online:

“[School] is requesting your permission to use your child’s personal information (i.e., image, grade and/or name, etc.) in public venues or on the internet where the general public may have access to the information in order to communicate with parents, the community and the general public.”

Notice that this statement says that images and/or names can be used on the internet to communicate to the general public. Further to this point, it also states on the form:

“Examples might include, but not limited to:

-posting pictures, videos, podcasts or presentations online

-accessing and posting information to public websites or social media applications (e.g., Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and other emerging technologies)”

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It is imperative that you know the purpose for posting online. You could have students make videos of themselves reading stories and post it on YouTube. But why use YouTube? If the video’s intended audience is just you and the parent, it may be better to upload it to a Drive folder. If your class has a message for the community, then YouTube may be the best medium.

And this has to be stated again. You need to let parents know if you are using web apps or posting anything will use the student’s information. This can be done through a newsletter, class blog, Schoolzone (in EPSB) or any other medium that you use to communicate with parents.

Here is a great video to recap (and the acting is fantastic):

The FOIP Consent form ensures that we are abiding by Alberta’s FOIP Act. The Act isn’t preventative legislation. It instructs us on what we need to do when we need to use personal information in order to do our duties as teachers in today’s connected, online world. The Act and our FOIP Consent form ensure that we, as a public institution, are being responsible with the information parents are giving us.

If you really want some good reading, check out the full Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Reflections on Creating and Managing Student Videos

Remember when our students could create their own Youtube channels and had access to the YouTube Creator Studio? Unfortunately, a subtle change at YouTube required G+ to create a Channel, and because my school district will not give our students G+ accounts, they are no longer able to activate their YouTube Channel (note – students who activated their Channel with their District Google account before the change did not lose access). Fortunately, teachers are a creative bunch and have come up with some new solutions. Ron Ceilin and Stephanie Jackson our two EPSB teachers who have some good thoughts and solutions. Read through them if you are looking for way for students to create and manage videos.

Stephanie Jackson’s Reflection

I thought I would give you all a quick update about the video sharing adventure I’ve been on. I learned A LOT doing this lip sync project…On YouTube, students can’t upload, webcam record, or use video editor (except the 1 or 2 students in each class who had previously created a channel with their school account). They can sign up with their personal emails, but this creates problems when they are signed into a ChromeBook at school. This was the most annoying glitch.

  • The easiest solution was to encourage everyone to use their phones to record, then use iMovie or something similar to edit. Student scan export it to their personal YouTube account and share the link with the teacher easily via a Google Doc/Sheet (run a PT class list report, save as PDF, select whole column and copy/paste into Google Doc or Sheet. The extra step of saving in PDF makes the names paste in one per column). Students upload their videos as unlisted and paste the video link next to their name. The teacher opens each link and adds the video to a playlist.
  • The mobile upload via email to the teacher YouTube Channel was awesome, for the few times it worked. Unfortunately, most of the videos were way over 25MB. This means that Gmail wouldn’t send them as an attachment, and the Google Drive version doesn’t work with YouTube.
  • A non-YouTube solution…I created a folder in Drive called Hand In Box and shared the link via Classroom (anyone with the link can edit). Students open the link, click Add to drive, Open in drive, then they can upload their video to the folder (on mobile devices, they have to switch to the desktop version). The teacher could use this folder as their playlist inste
  • ad of YouTube, or download each video and upload it to YouTube (This was loooooong. And isn’t it weird that YouTube won’t let you upload directly from Google Drive?!).
  • Students can attach their video to a Google Classroom assignment and it will show up in the project folder in Drive. However, this gets glitchy from a mobile device.

I think a lot of this would’ve been much easier if Google and YouTube would just talk more. If you could upload videos to YT directly from your Drive, it would’ve made this project so much easier. Anyways, there you have it! I hope this long email wasn’t a total waste of your time, and that someone somewhere is saved some trouble knowing all this.

Ron Ceilin has been using Screencastify with his students to capture videos with a Chromebook. He has been using this with his music class, but there are lots of opportunities do use a similar process in Second Languages and ELL.

Ron Ceilin’s note on Screencastify:

What is Screencastify?

Initially, I was using video to create a document of science student presentations that science students could review and critique. It eventually came to mind that I could use video as an assessment tool in my music class. The problem was that I can’t be in several places at one time. My music classroom has a wide swath of abilities and attitudes so when I was assessing one person utilizing video, several others were either off-task or demanding my attention. As I was attempting to figure out how I could assess the various levels of competence, I started to outline my requirements. There are several different approaches to learning a piece of music or gaining ground in musicianship and I wanted students to be able to present the way that suited them best:

  • If a student wanted to present me with an emulation of a song that they had audiated and/or transcribed, I wanted them to be able to show me that process in its entirety.
  • If they were sight-reading a piece of music, I wanted them to be able to present their performance with the sheet of music that they were sight-reading.
  • If the student had composed a piece of music, I wanted them to be able to provide me with the entire performance.
  • If it was a collaboration, I wanted students to be able to present me with the ensemble.
  • If the student was simply showing me how their technique or retention of a particular scale had developed, I wanted them to be able to present this to me too.

I wanted to incorporate many criteria: groove, expression, technique


  • First and foremost, I needed to see the students technique on their instrument – I needed to incorporate a webcam video of the students hands and/or embouchure.
  • I needed to utilize the technology that students had access to whenever they needed it – our class set of Chromebooks were the best solution.
  • Background audio would be required if a student was playing along with a piece of music. This could be presented by a video as well.
  • A screencast would be necessary to show the piece that the student is sight-reading.
  • A full screen webcam video would be required for students to present a collaboration.

Screencastify fulfilled these needs and was free!


  1. I have found that I have better student engagement.

  2. Students are able to reflect on their progress more concretely by comparing to past performances.

  3. Students have more freedom to engage in music in the way that suits them best. I have actually provided students with the assessment criteria based on the Alberta Programs of Study for music and allowed students to choose a project based on Singing/Playing (performing), Listening (audiating), Reading (sight-reading), or Creating (composing or arranging) – I have assessed them on Valuing based on how engaged they are in the process.

  4. I am now able to interact with individual students that are having trouble and help guide them to success while other students are working on their projects/presentations.

  5. I am able to share performances with parents, students, and even other subject teachers (we are presently doing a collaboration with French after a group of students did a “rendition” of Frere Jaques)

  6. I am able to be more precise with my assessment of student’s progress.

  7. One student actually incorporated a title screen into their performance using Google Docs. He used two screens and toggled between the two as he presented each performance. This was a great blend of technology and learning.

  8. The downloads are extremely fast within Chrome


  • I am still working out some kinks that have to do with feedback loops on play-along screencasts with embedded webcam video.
  • Students need to review their work prior to sharing it with me as there are audio feedback and “clipping” issues that they need to address – this will require teaching some techniques.
  • Students also need to prepare their performances thoroughly and know that they will be assessed. Students will tend to share as soon as they have recorded it rather than review, critique, and perfect before sharing.
  • You will need to set up electronic portfolios for your students (or have them set up their own).
  • The files are BIG. Make sure you have enough room on your Google Drive if you are going to download them. Otherwise, students can create their own portfolio by sharing the “Screencastify” folder that is set up in their Google Drive with you.
  • Isolation from other students working on their projects is difficult. I have students in the instrument storage room, my office, the hallway, even the boys bathroom!

You can see more of his insights as well as “How-To” instructions on his web site “Assessment Strategies Using Screencastify

Distracted by Smart Phones and Schools Without Windows

Fewer schools are banning cell phones in classrooms. As smart phones become smarter and schools begin adopting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), teachers are more open to tapping into these powerful learning tools. Yet for all the great opportunities they present, we still hear a call to ban them or find that teachers are fighting against them for the attention of the students. Recently, social media and digital guru Clay Shirky, posted about why he is asking students to put their laptops away. He talks about the cognitive pull these devices have on our attention and concludes his post with these words of wisdom:

This is, for me, the biggest change — not a switch in rules, but a switch in how I see my role. Professors are at least as bad at estimating how interesting we are as the students are at estimating their ability to focus. Against oppositional models of teaching and learning, both negative—Concentrate, or lose out!—and positive—Let me attract your attention!—I’m coming to see student focus as a collaborative process. It’s me and them working to create a classroom where the students who want to focus have the best shot at it, in a world increasingly hostile to that goal.

Student focus is a collaborative process. The cards are stacked against us in the classroom: the Carnegie Unit (or student hour), a curriculum that believes every child wants to learn about Tunisia in grade three, standardized everything. However, that doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel as Shirky suggests in his article. We need to work with students to show them how they can manage the digital tools they have in their pockets and harness their power for learning. A few simple steps could be:

  • Show students how to set turn off notifications and set their notification blocker (iOS, Android)
  • Increase rigor –  Have a variety of things to do during a lesson to keep the students attention. The attention span of children is one minute per year to a max of twenty minutes.
  • Use phrases that let students know when you absolutely need their attention and when they can be on their phones (eg. “Screens down” or “10 minutes of focus”). Help them control their Reticular Activation System in their brains.
  • Provide choice in assignments that allow them to use their phones. There are lots of ways to incorporate phones into lessons now: Video, audio, pictures, Google Drive (Docs, Slides, Sheets). Limiting tech to note-taking devices is a missed opportunity.

This list is not definitive, nor is the argument meant to be taken to the extreme. Yes, there are times when smartphones are not appropriate. Yes, some students have a harder time managing their attention than other students. Yes, the primary job of the teacher is to teach the curriculum and the curriculum (as well as the accompanying standardized exam) lends itself to particular teaching methods. That’s OK. Not everybody is ready for the change in teaching style and pedagogical philosophy that accompanies the inclusion of these tools. Rather than avoid these new learning tools because they require us to make a shift in how we teach, lets look at what we need to do to make the most of them.

It may be an urban myth, but the laughable prevailing understanding of why schools that were built in the 1960’s didn’t have windows was because they were too distracting to students. Will we ever look back and feel the same about personal devices?

What CES Means to Schools and Teachers

The dust has settled from CES 2015. News media and social media outlets have moved on to the next item in the news cycle and CES has published their Innovation Awards.  I have shared my stories and pictures with my friends, family and colleagues (aka bragging) and can no longer justify bringing CES up in general conversation. Talking through my experiences at CES, three themes have stuck with me that I think are important for educators to know about to guide them in preparing students for the world they will live in. These themes are The Internet of Things, Innovate or Die, and Automation of Everything.

The Internet of Things

I have mentioned the Internet of Things in a previous post about CES and I have been using the concept in a number of my sessions for a few years now. CES has really driven home how prevalent this will become as companies are striving to become more connected, collaborative and secure. We are capturing so much data today from such a wide variety of sources and connecting so many of the objects we use everyday that it is mind boggling. When my watch, talks to my car, which talks to my house, which talks to the other houses in the neighbourhood. The consequence of this scenario is that we will have algorithms and programs offering us choices or making decisions on our behalf. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but I would like to ensure that my students have the curiosity and open-mindedness to actively seek out alternates and be the masters of the choices they make, or at least being conscious of the programs that are making choices for them.

Innovate or Die

The world is changing so fast that this is one of the key elements to being successful in the modern era, due in part to the the IoT. It is very clear that we can not graduate students who are  a work force of worker bees (see why in the next section below) We must enable our students to be critical thinkers and entrepreneurs. Not entrepreneurs in the economic sense, but rather an entrepreneurial spirit. We need to nurture the characteristics of and entrepreneur in all our students (creative, independent, self-motivated, etc.).

Automation of Everything

Drones, robots, and software that aggregates the data from the IoT means our students will, in theory, have more time for other pursuits and will either be the masters of the robots or at their mercy. I believe that if we do not teach our students the language of coding, they will become dependent on automation instead educated consumers and critical thinkers in regards to the role these devices will play in their lives. We are already seeing this with adults and social media in our society today. Many of their interpretations are based on fear due to a lack of understanding of the technology. Imagine a world of connected devices using algorithms to make predictions and interpretations for individuals who have no concept how that is being done or understand how to manipulate that information to put themselves in control. I want all the students I teach to understand computational thinking and to be the ones writing the programs they need to solve their day to day problems instead of blindly allowing machines to make decisions for them.

From Consumer to Prosumer

This may very well be the most profound shift in our liberal democratic society. Corperations are shifting from trying to get people to simply buy and use their brands to engaging people in ways that the can promote and produce new content with their brand. It is important for us to teach students how this new economy of connectedness works. We need to teach them how to utilize the data collected by these interactions with brands and each other in ways that not just preserve, but manifest their sovereignty. Schools need to ensure their students are in control of their own lives, and not being controlled by the internet of everything. Marketing and capitalism are constantly evolving, and the rate of evolution is being amplified by our technology. Will education systems understand this change fast enough to be beneficial to our students? I recently saw Generation Like, a great documentary on PBS that helps us understand this shift.

For me, CES wasn’t really about all the cool tools and the creative innovation. Instead, it was about the possible future our society is headed toward and a reminder that with progress comes societal change. That rate of change is about to increase exponentially and the kids we teach need to be able to thrive in this environment. Does our education system (not necessarily the actual tools we use) provide them with the skills they need?

EPSB reflections on CES

Mark Strembicke, David Callandar and myself debriefed every day at CES, reflecting on the coolest things we saw and talking about what it means for our school district. Upon returning home, Mark wrote a great reflection he sent out to his team along with some good links that captured some of our discussions. Here is what he wrote:

CES is a gathering of electronic providers showcasing their latest products, some which will soon be on retail shelves, and others that are years away from production or even a sponsor.  Last year’s show saw 160,000 attendee’s from over 140 countries.  This year’s show appeared to be equally as busy.  Manufactures like Samsung, LG, Intel, Acer, Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp were but a few of the big name companies on site.

The show this year had some better organization around specific themes, so it was easier to see all the stuff about a particular topic.  Companies were group into areas like Kids and Technology, Family Technology, Health and Fitness, 3D Printing and even Privacy.  Tons to see outside the usual TV’s, Speakers and Games. One area that was of specific interest was “Eureka Park”.  This was a space set aside for new companies to showcase their ideas.   These are the products before they are even products.

One of the reasons to attend this event is to see where the market is going.  What’s new and what will we see in our schools.  The opening keynote by Samsung was of particular interest.  Below is a 6 minute highlight … worth watching.

(and if you liked that,  you can watch the entire hour of it here:  )

Overall, my impressions on this year’s themes are:

  • Internet of Things.  Big this year is IoT.  While a challenging concept to grasp it comes down to three components.  You first need a sensor to measure something.  Then you need a processor to do something with that data.  And lastly you need communications to send that data somewhere.  Really this can be applied to almost anything.  If can be a case where the music you are listening to on the bus, or in your car, transfers into your home stereo the moment you walk in the door.  It can be your appliances attending to your needs before you ask based on your habits.  Or if could be a plant pot that tells you when you need to water or fertilize your plant or if you need to move them to a brighter window.  It’s truly mind boggling to think of all the possibilities.  The challenge is an ecosystem where they can all talk together vs. a proprietary environment where each company’s products can only talk to each other.
  • Wearable Technology.  There are many manufacturers producing some form of watch-like technology that provides one or more of three themes;  health related info (pedometer, activity information, heart rate) or geographic related info for travel (running, hiking, mapping), and lastly communication information (email, text, messages).  Oh yes AND they can tell time!
  • Robotics.  Most of these were in the form of flying drones with multi-blade helicopter type forms carrying a camera.  New this year was more autonomy with collision avoidance and follow-me features.  As well, features ranges from the professional movie producers to the more consumer grade.  If you want to take a selfie type picture with you and your friends and no one around to take it … send out your drone using your iphone to control it and snap a pic.
  • Self Driving cars were a notable mention (as was all the new tech coming to cars).
  • 3D Printing and Scanning was also a notable mention.  Better, Faster, and cheaper.
  • Bluetooth/GPS Trackers were a notable.  Fine your car keys.  Find your dog.  Never lose your wallet.  Don’t forget your child in the car!
  • 3D headsets … looks to be all the rage.  Lots of people wearing goggles at the show looking around.  Quite funny to watch.
  • Back to the Future … Did the movie get it right about how it would look in Oct 21, 2015.  While flying cars aren’t available, lots of things indeed are here.

I wanted to close off with some specific reports on “cool tech”.  These articles do a better job showcasing the tech than I can.   Here are three links, each with a short video.  See what’s new and exciting.

TV’s and more.  (Good Video clip with summary)

Internet of Things (Good Video clip highlighting items)

A video clip that talks about the LG, Sony Walkman, Smartwatch, Lenvo (good quick watch)

And if you want to know more … google “CES 2015” and start filtering down to what you want.  Lots of different people writing up reviews and such.

The Internet of Things at CES

For the last few years I have talked to teachers about the internet of things and how inanimate objects in this world are recording data for us to use. The purpose of these talks was about how important it is for us to teach kids how to be masters of this information, instead of letting products use that info to tell us what to do. After hearing the BK Yoon’s keynote on the Internet of Things (IoT), that message is louder than ever.

The main message of his address was how the IoT is a reality today, it is not something we need to talk about in the future tense. He mentioned some very cool characteristics that are needed for it to continue to grow and develop in a healthy way – Connectedness, openness and security.This message has definitely defined my time here at CES. I see it in so many of the products and the slogans.

Connectedness is the way for devices to speak to each other, regardless of their brand (perhaps a bit of a dig at Apple). Everything becomes a device once it gets a sensor and can transmit information. For example, we saw a heated winter boot with temperature controls you set from your cell phone. we also saw a bluetooth padlock that unlocks when you are near it with your cell phone. Better yet, we saw cars with SIM cards that talk to other nearby cars to generate traffic information and connect your car to you and your home.

Openness can also be described as collaboration. Companies need to work together and share ideas and information for this vision of the future become a reality. There were lots of booths that promoted collaborations between companies. The security company ADT and teamed up with IFTTT to create home security programs that you can use to manage your house. For example, a camera at your front door is connected to your doorbell and your phone. When someone rings the bell, you can see who it is and let them in all from your phone.

The final point about security is a tougher one to address at the writing of this blog. I will come back to it after we get to that section of the convention. Seriously, this convention is huge.


Samsung keynote ces

An Educator at CES

I am a lucky consultant. The school district I work for, Edmonton Public, has been very good about providing me with professional development opportunities through out me career. I have been to many great educational conferences at home in Alberta and abroad in the US. I have been to ISTE, ATLE, Google Summits and others and I have always come away with something. It is great to find out how other jurisdictions and teachers use the current and newest tech in their classrooms. However, as an EdTech consultant who loves to ponder the future of education (and subsequently society), I have been lucky enough this year to get to go to the Consumer Electronics Show 2015 in Las Vegas.

Calling this a large conference is an understatement. There are over 100,000 people attending. It is held on many floors of multiple, massive hotels. The directory is 410 pages and reads like a phone book. Some of the Confrence tracks I am looking forward to are Kids@Play and Family Tech Summit, Lifelong Tech, Mobile Content and Monetization, TransformingEDU, Wireless and Mobility, and finally Automotive Electronics (OK, the last might be more of a guilty pleasure).

I am traveling with two IT managers from EPSB; David Callander and Mark Strembicke. This is not their first rodeo to CES and I am grateful for their survival tips. They will also be great sounding boards to bounce ideas off and keep me from getting too “pie in the sky.”

My goal for this conference is to discover where technology is headed, see it the latest in innovation in action, and think about how these new technologies will impact our lives and affect the way we teach and learn.

Google Classroom Makes a Debut


I had my first real chance to play with Google Classroom and my first impressions have been very positive. It is a very simple interface and it will ease document management for both teachers and students.

What I like about Google Classroom:

  • Automatically makes a classroom folder in my Drive that contains a folder for each course. Inside each course folder, I can create assignments and store docs that I will be able to use year after year.
  • Automatically creates a folder to store a class assignment. Each new assignment gets a new folder within the class folder. When students make a copy of the doc for their work, it adds it in my assignment folder and automatically puts their name after the title.
  • The conversation stream for the whole class and on individual assignments is a great way to stay connected with students. It is a simple, yet effective, social media element.
  • In the Student view, you can see all your upcoming and overdue assignments on one page (might cause anxiety issues for some students).
  • Exporting assignment marks as CSV files could make for easy input in to student information systems.
  • The classroom code that students can use to enter themselves into a classroom is very slick. This code can be changed so that you can lock it down after the class has started if you don’t want people from outside the class getting in.
  • Tracks who has (and has not) turned in an assignment. It is also easy to send an email reminder to students.

Initial Thoughts

I also have a few things I would like to see changed, but as this is the early stages of Google Classroom, I am sure there will be lots of updates over the next few months and years. One such issue is the “turn in” button. In its current form, students are unable to edit something after they click the “turn it” in button, and the teacher has suggestions/commenting rights. It would be great to be able to toggle that on and off. If I could control the “editability” of the assignment,  I could turn on the “no more editing” feature if it was a summative assessment, or turn it off if I have a formative assessment and would like to provide feedback while they work.

One suggestion I would like to try is integrating an ePortfolio into the file structure Google Classroom automatically creates for the students. In their Classroom folder, students could make an ePortfolio folder that is shared with their parents/guardians and anyone else they choose. Students can move completed assignments to this folder and organize it in such a way that it becomes the archive of their best work over their school career.


I am not an assessment guru, but any suggestions on how to make this an authentic ePortfolio would be appreciated.

A “classroom” doesn’t necessarily need to be for one course. It could be used for differentiation within a class (groups of students each assigned to a “classroom”). It could also be used for professional learning groups. And with a little more thought, I am sure I could come up with a way to use it as a project management tool for project-based learning and District level administrative projects. Lots of possibility here.

For more info, check out the following links: