Category Archives: Blog

iPad: All-in-One and Workflows

I Love Milwaukee

I Love Milwaukee

I had two initial thoughts back in March when I first heard we were getting iPads. The first was PURE GOLD. iPads are fun. I had read a little about them in education and they seemed to be transforming classrooms. At that time, typically the classrooms that had them were elementary (primary) education classes and they were showcasing their use of apps to help with early childhood literacy, science or numeracy and maths. I began reflecting on applying this into the university ESL foundation classes that I teach and my next thought was WAIT A MINUTE. We have a curriculum in place and our students need to obtain a certain benchmark on the standardized IELTS test. With limited knowledge of the iPad, I wasn’t fully aware of how to integrate the iPad with the curriculum and learning objectives that I had for my lessons. Initially these institutional were parameters that didn’t seem as flexible, that is, until I realized the value of two things: the iPad as an All-in-One device and workflows.

Our university decided to implement iPads and based on my experience and knowledge of teaching and learning with educational technology, I applied and was successful in teaching a pilot class with only iPads (instead of laptops). I had earned my wings! I started reading feverishly and realized like a lot of people out there that the iPad is an All-in-One device. I realized the potential of integrating their real lives into their learning. If we’re doing a grammar tense or structure, then we can personalize it with their content. If we’re doing small research projects, then apps like Notability or Evernote might be useful in their collation of resources. Students here drift towards rote learning before exams. Whilst I don’t condone it, I certainly see that our current assessments promote this and we’ll need to start talking about that. But after we learn the words and actively produce the language, I showed them the flashcards app. Students loved it and couldn’t get enough. I even have students pulling unknown vocabulary from reading and listenings and making personal lists. Students never had the motivation before to do that on their laptop.

In my opinion, the iPad’s true potential is only realized when you use the All-in-One iPad within workflows. To me the workflow is using two or more apps to complete a task (I use task liberally). Students want to personalize a paragraph they’ve written in Pages? Then they take the photos on their camera and retrieve them from the photo library. They’ve created a very small workflow between the camera, photo library and pages. Another time, students created videos to explain different aspects of humanitarian aid. Students researched using Safari, stored notes using Evernote, discussed and shared resources on Edmodo, took photos using their camera, and created a video using ExplainEverything or iMovie. This was possible because the iPad has it all and I was able to design the learning task to move between these apps.

I believe in the potential of iPads but it must be based on sound teaching and learning. GREAT POTENTIAL INDEED.

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Interactive WhiteBoard Professional Development

This is an executive summary of an extensive literature review of the hierarchy of conditions needed for effective Interactive WhiteBoard (IWB) professional development (PD). These conditions need to be addressed in order to facilitate the PD and support the integration of the IWBs into teaching and learning. For the full literature review, please contact Nicholas Yates.

The IWB PD Hierarchy

Unique to the pyramid is the base of situating the P.D. in the context of the integration. Any PD should be situated and school grown. If there is a school need, can the school pool their resources together before seeking outside consultation? If outside help is sought, will this person facilitate school targeted PD specific to the teachers’ IWB needs and not their stock standard cookie cuttings. Any PD should be developmental as once a set of PD objectives have been met, another set will probably rise. Glover and Miller (2009) engaged teachers in cooperative P.D. that requires teachers engage in a cyclical process to investigate, evaluate, and reflect and their hands-on experiences is exactly what’s needed; the sustained process of discovery syncs well with an object that we must actively touch and use.

The next hierarchical step in P.D. is dealing with extrinsic factors that affect teachers and the P.D. The extrinsic deals with things that are external to the teacher but must be met in order to progress towards effectiveness. Making sure there are no technical issues with the equipment or the infrastructure consistently supports IWB use are two main extrinsic factors. Also a lack of time from contractual duties (teaching, marking, etc…) is often reported as another factor against PD and this can hinder the developmental nature of learning the IWB. Assessment might be considered an obstacle of overall progressive change and this is no different here. Technology integration faces the assessment hurdle as innovation rarely syncs with standardised testing. Hew and Brush reported that high stakes assessments force some teachers to revert to old beliefs in lecture style classes being more effective at information transmission. IWBs are an emerging technology and there must be leadership to guide and encourage teachers in their pursuit of PD. Leadership is a cornerstone for further integration as most other extrinsic factors can be reduced with the right leadership.

The next section is another synthesis of the nature of P.D. stemming from the literature. The intrinsic refers to the P.D. targeting a teachers’ cognition in order to effectively integrate the IWB into their pedagogy and classroom whereas the experiential are teacher experiences to compliment the cognitive side. The experiential factors happen in conjunction and thus the positioning in the hierarchy depicts the complimentary, yet slightly subordinate, nature of the experiential. Collaboration and Community of Practice (COP) are two approaches towards experiencing a range of content, knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. Through inquiry and reflection, educators can experience the IWB and allow the intrinsic elements to operate.

The intrinsic elements to effective P.D. occupy slightly more of the top of the section as many articles point to teachers’ cognitive filters when integrating IWBs and reflects that once teachers have IWB experiences, they can then cognitively process the experience before integrating it into their teaching repertoire (Lewin, Somekh, & Steadman, 2008). Many have noted that effective PD must challenge teacher beliefs and this is particularly the case with emerging technologies which are often displacing another teaching aid and beliefs associated with this. Teacher knowledge here must also be targeted as the PD must facilitate knowledge production about the IWB in terms of it can relate to their technological, pedagogical and content knowledge. In the end, a litmus test of the PD is whether there is value congruence between the PD’s message of IWB good practice and the educator’s set of values. If there is a synergy, the teacher may slowly integrate the IWB into teaching and learning in their classroom.

The peak represents the ultimate realisation of effective P.D. for IWB integration.  This hypothesis lays the situated context as a foundation and points to experiential factors reflexively influencing with the intrinsic processes; yet in the end, the intrinsic processing of the experiential will lead towards effective P.D., IWB integration. The culmination is more effective teaching and learning through integrating IWBs.



Glover, D., & Miller, D. (2009). Optimising the use of interactive whiteboards: an application of developmental work research (DWR) in the United Kingdom. Professional Development in Education, 35(3), 469-483.

Hew, K. F., & Brush, T. (2007). Integrating technology into K-12 teaching and learning: Current knowledge gap sand recommentdations for future research. Educational Technology Research & Development, 55(3), 245 – 267.

Lewin, C., Somekh, B., & Steadman, S. (2008). Embedding interactive whiteboards in teaching and learning: The process of change in pedagogic practice. Education and Information Technologies, 13(4), 291-303.


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Portfolios to Assess Language Learning

Read by Daniel Y Go

Recently I’ve been reading about portfolios as an alternative form of assessment. Portfolios could be used to assess the experiences of learning instead of testing knowledge of learning. A portfolio should be an ongoing assessment of learning and not just handed in at the end. The teacher plays an important role here to guide the process and interact with the student and their portfolio. This enables the portfolio to reflect the process of learning more than just the product. This portfolio should reflect learning objectives of the course and could certainly act as formative feedback for the student constantly updating them on their progress. Reflection on this development is also crucial to separate a portfolio from activities.

Within language teaching, the portfolio can reflect students’ progression as a language learner. The portfolio won’t necessarily assess their language but will demonstrate their experiences and (hopefully) their improvements in their language learning journey. Each language student has different strengths and weaknesses and teachers can use portfolios to promote self-directed learning so that students target their weaknesses independently. Through work samples or activity/experience documentation, students demonstrate their active interaction with their weaknesses.

Taking the skill of reading as an example I want to share my preliminary thoughts on a portfolio design for assessment purposes. Often classes complete an IELTS activity with a long text and up to 15 questions only. Sometimes teachers incorporate pre- or post-reading activities but there is much language input in the text as all language learning opportunities may not be maximized. The ability to read the text is not being assessed; rather it is the process of learning language stemming from the reading.

Within a portfolio, students might include the reading and their answers to the questions as a start. However, students could engage with the text more and complete some critical reading within which the student discovers more about the text (purpose, inferences, analysis of sections etc…). If a portfolio stopped here, apart from resembling learning activities only, progress may be limited and opportunities to explore the language within the text may be lost.

Students could explicitly notice unknown language, vocabulary or grammar structures, and make an effort to learn and subsequently produce this language. Written or spoken texts could be produced with the student paying attention to the language learnt. The class could use an online forum to talk (written or spoken) about issues or topics from the text with the teacher facilitating (or stirring the conversation) debate or discussion. Students could even drive the interaction by creating new threads or posting their own questions or comments based on the text using the target language. Transcripts, summaries or reflections of these discussions could easily be included in portfolios.

e-Portfolios can be a personalized central collection point for all their digital documentation of learning. Websites or programs that offer e-Portfolio solutions all promote the organization of students’ documents in a range of formats and links to external websites where students’ work has been uploaded. These portfolios can even have a plagiarism checker included to ensure all students submit their own work for their own portfolios. Finally, most e-Portfolios offer a reflection platform to ensure students are working cyclically and not just completing one off activities.

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