Christopher Lister

Game-Based Learning In An Inquiry Framework

gbl im kindergarten
“gbl im kindergarten” by elisabeth, 24.04.2009 – Projekt “Digital Game Based Learning” is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

For my literature review, I have been struggling to find a focus within the overarching topic of inquiry learning.  One area of inquiry learning I keep coming back to is game-based learning (GBL) or simulation-based learning (SBL).  These two areas of inquiry learning form the basis of my reflection this week.
If the goal of inquiry learning is to foster student discovery, then gaming provides unlimited opportunities for learners to make discoveries and experiment.  Mark Hawkes, BC Ministry of Education, has been super helpful with providing contacts and information supporting the use of GBL and SBL in classrooms.  According to the 2011 Horizon Report:

Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games. Those at the first end of the spectrum are easy to integrate into the curriculum, and have long been an option in many schools; but the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration and engage students deeply in the process of learning. Once educational gaming providers can match the volume and quality of their consumer-driven counterparts, games will garner more attention.

–NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition

Video’s supporting the use of GBL/SBL in schools:

Katie Salen on Learning with Games by Edutopia


Jane McGonigal Speaks On The Skills Students Are Learning From Games by Knowledge Works

A Case for GBL and SBL Use In Classrooms:

  1. Whenever I get together with other educators at workshops and professional development opportunities, I constantly hear the rhetoric that students don’t take risks and are afraid to fail.  I think games and simulations create safe environments for students to take risks, fail, and learn from their experiences in ways that do not exist in many classrooms.
  2. GBL and SBL allow users to experience essential 21st century skills and social practices such as collaboration, problem-solving, team-building, and different ways of being and doing.
  3. Good game designers scaffold and differentiate their tasks and objectives well, and this mirrors the techniques many educators are trying to replicate in the classroom.


As I continue to develop my understanding of GBL/SBL please feel free to share your experiences on the topic.


Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., & Haywood, K. (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Media (Vol. 2010, p. 36). doi:10.1002/chem.201001078


Scaffolding An Inquiry Question With Kids

Informing a bunch of rowdy 10 and 11-year-olds that you are going to create space in their weekly schedule, and allow them to follow their passions, is easy.  Nurturing a sense of wonder and helping students generate deep-thinking questions to guide their inquiry journey is entirely more challenging!


I had the pleasure of attending an inquiry session on the topic of #geniushour with Hugh McDonald in Chilliwack on Friday.  Through this session,  I learned the importance of scaffolding inquiry questions with my learners.  I’ve tried to engage in inquiry learning without guiding questions, but I found that my learners lacked focus.  This week, my learning centers on scaffolding the process of generating questions to guide inquiry.


Generating Context:

Videos and books are two great ways to generate context around inquiry thinking.

Sharing videos that depict people engaging in their passion are always very helpful.  I like Caine’s Arcade by Nirvan Mullick because it clearly demonstrates the creativity, grit, determination, and passion on a regular nine-year-old kids – something that I hope my learners can connect with.

‘Caine’s Arcade’ by Nirvan Mullick


I also like Moonshot Thinking because it emphasizes that ordinary people have and will continue to advance social change in positives way.

‘Moonshot Thinking’ by Google


The last video I’ll use to provide context to inquiry learning is Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap because I love his enthusiasm and the scientific lens through which he approaches his inquiry.

‘Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap’ by littlepythagoras


Picture books, which highlight creative forces at work can also be helping in providing context for inquiry learning.  Some of the books I’ve found include:


Helping Learners Find Their Passion:

I found last year that students whose parents were actively engaged in their child’s school experience were able to find their passions much sooner than those who did not.  There are those students I encounter every year who are internally ‘driven’ and have no problem identifying and describing their passions, but the majority of my learners need time and a little help discovering their talents.


Below are ways to help the majority of your learners find their passion.  Ask students to make a list of:

  • Five things you love to do
  • Five things they are good at
  • Five things they like to do outside of school
  • Things you do when nobody is telling you what to do


Thinking is Driven By Questions:

I value the literacy work of Vancouver educator, Adrienne Gear and her series of Reading Power Books.  In particular, I have found her nonfiction work on questioning to be extremely useful.  I used to think that my learners should be able to generate thoughtful questions surrounding the work we do, but I’ve learned that to ask deep-thinking questions is a skill that requires development.


My students ask a variety of different types of questions.  Many are examples of simple questioning; questions that identify information they already know about the topic – redundant questions, and questions that do not move the inquisitor to a deeper understanding the topic – distracting questions.

According to Gear (2008), deep-thinking questions:

  1. Take time to answer
  2. Help to deepen understanding of the topic
  3. Usually have more than one answer
  4. Lead to more questions

When embarking on classroom inquiry projects, it is important to spend the time helping all learners find their passion.  This process can begin by asking simple questions about what learners do when they are not in school.


Gear, A. (2008). Nonfiction Reading Power. (K. Mototsune, Ed.) (p. 160). Markham: Pembroke/Stenhouse.


Constructivism: The Foundation of Inquiry Learning


Attribution: ‘Learning Theory’ by Richard Millwood – Licensed under a Creative Commons attribution – Share Alike 2.0  

There is also a live CmapTools version of the above image with clickable links to Wikipedia and InfEd.


Learning theories are frameworks used to explain how people learn and acquire knowledge.  They form the basis of all pedagogical instruction.  Learning theories in education are varied and numerous.  Some focus on the cognitive and emotional influences while others focus on environmental factors and prior experiences of learners.  Not only do they represent the lens through which all learning experiences are designed, they also represent an anchor to which educators can return when their practice needs refocusing.


As I document and embark on the journey of reintroducing inquiry learning into my elementary classroom, I felt the need to explore the theoretical frameworks that support inquiry learning.  Richard Millwoood’s blog posting titled, Learning Theory and, in particular, his visual representation of the main learning theories, helped me link inquiry learning to the paradigm of constructivism.


Constructivism is a theory of knowledge.  It states that humans ‘construct’ knowledge, information, and ability to learn by interacting with and reflecting on their experiences with the world around them.  It has its roots in three core scientific disciplines; Education, psychology, and philosophy.  Constructivism is also connected to the principles of design and cybernetics.  Jean Piaget is said to be the father of the constructivist learning theory, but Jerome Bruner has continued to develop the work started by Piaget.

Constructivism as a Learning Theory

  • Knowledge is constructed and shaped by one’s experiences
  • Learning is a personal interpretation of the world
  • Emphasises problem-solving and understanding
  • Uses authentic tasks, experiences, settings, assessments


Inquiry-based learning is an approach to teaching and learning that places students’ questions, ideas and observations at the centre of the learning experience.  The underlying approach is the idea that both educators and students share responsibility for learning. I like Neil Stephenson’s Introduction to Inquiry-Based Learning and his view that inquiry involves:

  1. Learners tackling real-world questions, issues and controversies
  2. Developing questioning, research and communication skills
  3. Solving problems or creating solutions
  4. Collaborating within and beyond the classroom
  5. Developing deep understanding of content knowledge
  6. Participating in the public creation and improvement of ideas and knowledge

Constructivists Classrooms

An educator’s role in a constructivist classroom is to prompt and facilitate discussion, and to guide students by asking questions that will lead them to develop their own conclusions on a subject.  If inquiry is based on the belief that knowledge is generated through the process of people working and conversing together to tackle real-life problems, and make discoveries, then constructivism and inquiry are a perfect match!


Constructivism (philosophy of education). (2015, February 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:11, February 15, 2015, from (n.d.).  Summaries of learning theories and models.  Retrieved, 10:11, February 15, 2015, from

Learning theory (education). (2015, February 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:35, February 15, 2015, from

Millwood, R. (2013, May 10). Learning theory [Blog Post]. Retrieved 9:02, February 15, 2015, from

Stephenson, N. (n.d.). Introduction to inquiry-based learning [Blog Post]. Retrieved 10:23, February 15, 2015, from


Inquiry lit Review Reflection

My literature review on the theme of inquiry learning is developing slowly at best!  Inquiry learning is such a wide topic that I feel an impending need to narrow the focus.  I have considered looking at inquiry learning through the lens of game-based and simulation-based learning, but my experience is this area is limited.  I could narrow the focus of inquiry learning to the area of elementary school education, but that feels a little bit like a ‘cop out’.


In spite of the general frustration surround my literature review, I have made some progress with respect to content of my research.  Through the research I’ve read so far I feel it necessary to include information on the following:


  • Define inquiry learning and include a quick review of the different types
  • Include a section in my literature review on why inquiry learning is sound pedagogy practice for elementary school educators, and discuss the reasons for change
  • The link between inquiry learning and self-regulation skills


Spirals of Inquiry by Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser it has helped me frame some of my thinking about inquiry learning lately.  Halbert and Kaser are co-leaders of Networks of Inquiry and Innovation and the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network.  They are also co-directors of the Centre for Innovative Educational Leadership at Vancouver Island University where they teach graduate programs in educational leadership.


According to Halbert and Kaser, the need for inquiry-learning in school is born from a disturbing trend of student disengagement from the current education system in British Columbia.  They claim that the current model of education is viewed in one of three ways:

  1. Educators and government need to focus on the quality of teaching and learning by narrowing down specific learning targets, making sure everyone understands the goal and is prepared to be in it for the long haul.
  2. Today’s digital learners need to be educated in a system that is radically different from the current model, and a major overhaul is required.
  3. The system is fine the way it is but is severely underfunded – money will fix the problem.


Spirals of Inquiry attempts to honour all three views in an appeasing manner.

Although I am only halfway through the book, I have appreciated their connection between indigenous culture and inquiry learning – something I would not have considered an obvious link before reading their work.  I have attempted to visualize the lens through which Halbert and Kaser view inquiry learning in the diagram below:


Spirals Of Inquiry (1)

Adapted from the book, Spirals of Inquiry by Halbert and Kaser in association with BCPVPA


3 Important Questions On Classroom Inquiry

During last Thursday’s #GeniusHour Twitter chat, I learned how to handle three considerations on my journey to reintroduce inquiry learning into my elementary classroom.


After a round of brief introductions, chat moderator for the night, @Gallit_z, offered the above questions for the group to discuss. During my initial attempt at introducing inquiry learning with my students last year, I was extremely vague on deadlines and due dates, and I believe this contributed to organizational challenges I experienced.  I was particularly interested in this question because my students didn’t get to present last year, and I wanted to get a sense of how this important part of the inquiry cycle would work in my setting.  Most of the educators who attended Thursday’s chat used some form of social media to allow their students to share their learning outside of the four walls of the classroom.  Social media networks allow students to engage in ‘visible thinking’ throughout their inquiry as oppose to just at the end of it.

There was a variety of different ways that educators used to share their student’s final work.  Two outstanding ideas both involved engaging with the community outside of school.  @pstolt1 hosts a BYOD (Bring Your Own Dinner Night) for parents and family members while @jcd118 presented student inquiry projects to the school board.  Inquiry learning should involve the active participation of the community, and I am excited to try and host a bring your dinner (BYOD) night to celebrate student achievement.






Asking students to document their learning is an important part of the inquiry process.  It encourages accountability and is a valuable self-regulation skill.  Last year, I thought I had prepared my students well in this area, but they seemed to find it challenging when asked to explain what they had discovered during that week’s learning block.  I asked my learners to fill out this Google Doc at the end of each inquiry block.  Many of the educators in Thursday’s chat also used something similar to track their students’ learning.  The difference between those who were successful in student’s documenting their work, and those that were not, were educators who conferenced with their students on a regular basis.  Most of the educators in this chat housed their student tracking in one spot to make it easy to view and offer guidance.  I didn’t do this last time but will certainly incorporate it this time.  Trello, Padlet, and a range of Google tools are excellent resources to track whole-class learning.



When I first introduced inquiry learning to my students, there was a rush of excitement from the class.  I heard expressions like, “Finally, I get to learn about something I like!” or “Cool, I’ve always wanted to learn about…!”  Naturally, when students were asked to narrow down their focus and document their learning some of their initial passion dissipated.  Knowing what to do if my students get into a rut with inquiry learning is of high value to the facilitator.  Once again, there was a variety of tips for maintaining learning momentum.  I appreciated @PlainfieldGH advice – “Modify your project to overcome.”  I think there is great value in teaching young children that their initial ideas may not come to fruition and that a redesign is a natural and important step in the process.  @HughTheTeacher shared a link to several motivational videos that I will no doubt need to explore at some point, while others participate in Motivational Mondays.  If the inquiry is to be successful for all students I’ve learned that it is important to accept that at the initial excitement about learning will fade, and it would be beneficial to be prepared for it.

Inquiry #LearningProject Reflection

Basic Inquiry Cycle (1)

As I continue to develop a more robust framework for inquiry learning in my classroom, I have developed a very basic inquiry cycle to guide my instruction.

Before I start my latest reflection on Reintroducing Inquiry Learning Into The Elementary Classroom, I wanted to give a quick shout out to Terri Eichholz  and her recent blog post for turning me onto Barry Schwartz and his TED Talk, The Paradox of Choice, which describes the debilitating effect that too much choice can have on our decision making process.

I directly related the negative effects of choice that Schwartz discusses to the difficulty and time it took students to decide the focus of their inquiry.  I wrongly assumed they would just figure it out in due course – that deciding wouldn’t be a big deal.  I was wrong!

Schwartz says too much choice makes it difficult for people to make a decision and paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices.  He also argues that even when we make a decision by overcoming the challenges associated with too much choice, we end up less satisfied with our final choice than we would have if we had fewer options to choose from.


  1. The more options there are, the easier it is to regret your final decision because it is natural to start to compare the final choice with the original list of choices.  This results in a decrease of satisfaction with the product, even if the decision was a good choice.  In practice, creating a huge list of inquiry topics with the class may be counterproductive.
  1. ‘Opportunity costs’ – whenever one chooses to do one thing it is inevitably at the direct cost of another.  In inquiry learning, the dilemma of choosing to learn about different animal skeletons means it is not possible to learn about gardening.  This causes internal conflict, which can be extremely debilitating for some children.
  1. ‘Escalation of expectation’ – adding excessive choice to people’s lives increases their expectations about how good those choices are. This produces less satisfaction with final decision, even when it is a good decision.  In inquiry learning, student’s expectations surrounding a topic may become over inflated, which leads to an eventual decrease in overall satisfaction.

I plan to counter Schwartz’s findings and help to improve my learner’s chances of self-select an inquiry topic in a timely manner by:

  • involving parents more in the process – parents know their children and their passions better than anyone
  • model my own inquiry learning
  • help my learners narrow their inquiry focus by asking them to think about what they do during unstructured time

How do you help students navigate the decisioning making process around their inquiry projects?

Learning Project Reflection: #InquiryChat

InquiryChat  with tweets  · MrLister · Storify

I am a great proponent of attending Twitter chats to stretch my thinking and engage in professional development.  There are times when I find myself highly engaged in some chats while other times I simply lurk and listen to the engaging conversations.  Whichever mood I’m in, I always leave with valuable resources and nuggets of information that challenge my thinking.  On my journey to reintroduce inquiry learning into my classroom, I found two Twitter chats that may prove useful – #inquirychat and #geniushour.


I attended my first #inquirychat on Thursday evening and left with mixed opinions.  I’m used to fast-paced chats such as #bcedchat and #edchat, and I found Thursday’s experience very different from my normal encounters – slow, sometimes awkward, but in some respects more meaningful.  I’m the type of person who needs time to process ideas that challenge my thinking, and need time to craft thoughtful responses to questions.  Thursday’s chat offered time for me to reflect on the questions before sharing my thoughts.


One disadvantage of the chat was that there were only six people contributing to the conversations and most of them were looking at inquiry through the lens of the middle and high-school experience.  Another disadvantage was the cultural differences between members of the chat.  Most of the participants were from the U.S. and much of the chat centered on the difficulties of adopting inquiry learning methods in an environment that places so much emphasis on standardized testing.


In spite of the limited number of participants, there were several useful pieces of information I picked up.  The topic of service-learning came up in the chat several times and this topic fits in nicely with one of the options in the framework I plan to develop during this learning project.  I appreciated this tweet from @MlleLofthouse because it reminds me to engage my learners in thinking centered around real-life problem/solutions:

InquiryChat   · MrLister · Storify

Points That Stretched My Thinking:

  • Inquiry can motivate learners when it involves real life learning such as service learning
  • ‘Hands-on’ learning opportunities often make the best inquiry learning projects
  • Simulations are great ways to engage learners in skill and content building exercises
  • Game-based learning and simulation-based learning lend themselves well to inquiry learning
Resources added to my Diigo on Inquiry Learning:

Reintroducing Inquiry Learning Into The Elementary Classroom


In January of last year I introduced an inquiry block named C.H.O.I.C.E (Children Have Ownership In Choice Education) into my weekly schedule.  I told my students that for an hour and a half every Thursday I was setting aside time for them to follow their passions.  Initially there was much excitement on my part and on the part of my students.  Some students wanted to learn about art while others wanted to learn how to use Windows Movie Maker to produce videos.  The first mistake I made was spending more time figuring out a cute acronym for the block of time I was setting aside rather than preparing my students for new way for doing school. Upon reflection I got my priorities all wrong.  As part of my #learningproject in EDCI 569 with Alec Couros, I intend to ‘right the ship’ and reintroduce inquiry-learning into my classroom in more intentional way.


I have some important goals I would like to achieve with this project:

  1. Create a framework that is suitable for inquiry learning in an elementary school setting
  2. Scaffold the learning process so all my learners can experience a successful project
  3. Include parents in the project by sharing learning throughout the process not just at the end
  4. Create conditions for students to share their learning at the end of the project with the rest of the class and publicly
  5. Provide just the right amount of guidance so as not to exhibit too much control over learning
  6. Share the resources I collect through the process of my learning via a tool such Diigo or Scoop.It


I plan to share my learning on my blog under the category ‘CHOICE’ and the tag ‘#LearningProject’.  My blog posts will also auto populate to Twitter using the hashtags #LearningProject and #TIEGrad.

In addition, I have discovered that with any learning project it is important to connection with a like-minded community for support and inspiration.  With this in mind I plan to attend two Twitter chat each month.  Sadly, they are both on Thursdays at 6pm PST which means I can only attend for the first half hour because of class but something is better than nothing.  #GeniusHour is held on the first Thursday of every month and #InquiryChat is bi-weekly on Thursdays at 6pm.

Let the journey begin…

The Journey: Narrowing Down A Lit Review Topic

The journey of narrowing down a topic for my lit reviews has not been easy.  Fraught with indecision and a stubbornness to find the perfect topic, the delays have been frustrating.  One on one chats with my professor forced me into thinking carefully about what I was looking for in a lit review and subsequent project, and here are some of my musings.

I started to think about what I was looking for in a project and came up with a short list:

  • It may sound simplistically obvious, but I want my lit review to be personally relevant.  I have to be jazzed about the idea.
  • I also need the topic to be meaningful to my practice.  I do not want to complete a lit review and project just for the sake of it.  The information I read and process in the lit review has to, somehow, enhance my practice and help me become a better educator.
  • Selfishly, it also has to be a topic that will help me create opportunities outside of the k-12 classroom.  I cannot see myself working solely as a classroom teacher for the next 20 years.

Next, I started to consider some of the issues I see in education and use this as a driving force to change.  Some of the challenges I see are as follows:

  • The model of school – The more time I spend in education, the more I get excited about the learning aspect of school and the more disheartened I get about the miscellaneous aspects of school.  I often feel that school gets in the way of learning.
  • Another issue, I see in schools, is the culture.  Rank and sort, grouping students by age, individual classrooms, grades, award systems, compartmentalized subjects, and inequity work against a model of learning and inquiry.
  • I believe more and more students are starting to question the personal relevance of their school experience.

When thinking of lit review topics and possible masters projects four themes have started to emerge:

  1. Multi-access Learning – Learning does not always occur between the bookends of a typical school day.  There is an opportunity to develop more freedom for students of all ages to access learning at a time that is personally convenient.  Flexible attendance may take the pressure of certain students and allow for more focused instructional time, and opportunities for asynchronous delivery may reduce anxiety for others. One major disadvantage of choosing multi-access learning as a topic is making it meaningful to my practice.  I don’t think this is a model for elementary school students that we see anytime soon.
  2. Game-based/Simulation-based Learning – According to NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition, “Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games.” (Johnson, Adams, & Haywood, 2011)  I am hesitant of choosing game-based learning as a lit review topic because of the stigma associated with the use of games in education.  Even though I see the value of game-based learning in education the term ‘edutainment’ comes to mind.  I can foresee some of the emails I might receive from parents condemning more of their children’s time allotted to gaming.  I am also slightly conflicted about the reward aspect of gaming.  As an educator, I am very conscious about the destructive nature of reward-based systems as a method of obtaining results.
  3. Open Education – Open education and open practices cover a broad range of subtopics.  The idea, that intellectual property can be shared for the benefit of everyone, is an exciting prospect.  I believe that education can and should be available to anyone at anytime, and there exists opportunities to reduce costs in education by using open educational resources.  One of the greatest challenges I see in pursuing Open Education masters project are the overly restrictive privacy laws in British Columbia.
  4. Inquiry/Personalized Learning – This is the topic I am most excited about right now.  Last year I introduced a block of time set aside each week called C.H.O.I.C.E.  Children Have Ownership In Choice Education (C.H.O.I.C.E) was modeled on #geniushour, Passion Time, and 20% time.  Essentially, it allows time in our weekly schedule for students to direct their own learning, explore areas of personal interest, develop a sense of inquiry, and have an outlet for their own brand of creativity.  It did not go so well when I introduced because I gave my learners too much freedom and did not adequately scaffold the inquiry process.  I believe I can learn from my mistakes and help others avoid some of the schoolboy errors I initially made when I introduced it.

I also need to consider an overarching learning theory to support my project.  Inquiry learning and the learning theory of Constructivism compliment each other.  “Constructivism states that learning is an active contextualize process of constructing knowledge rather than acquiring it.” (“Constructivism,” n.d.)


Constructivism. (n.d.). In Learning-Theories. Retrieved January 17, 2015, from

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Haywood, K. (2011). Horizon Report > 2011 K – 12 Edition. Methodology (p. 36). Retrieved from

Chapter Reflection: Digital School by Clive Thompson

“As various educational analysts have joked, if you brought a bunch of surgeons from a hundred years ago into today’s hospitals, they would have no idea what was going on, because everything about their craft had evolved: antibiotics, laparoscopic devices, MRIs. But time-traveling teachers would have no trouble walking into an elementary school (or even Harvard) and going to work, because schools are nearly identical. Walk to the front of the class, pick up the chalk, and start lecturing.” (Thompson, 2014)


Educational theorists from around the globe agree that the model of school has not changed much in centuries.  I believe that is about to change.


The evolution of digital technology use in schools is increasing all the time.  Educators are using digital tools to augment the limitations of our brains, provide meaningful and authentic learning opportunities, and create artefacts of learning that can be shared and improved on by others.  Of course, this kind of process takes time.  Whenever a new practice is developed there are always those folk who realize its potential early and jump on board.  For others, it takes a little more time to change.


Innovators and Early Adopters are pushing the boundaries with digital technologies in schools while the Early Majority are now moving through the framework of SAMR model of technology integration in their classrooms.  I am sure, upon reflection, the history of school will be divided into the time before and after the digital revolution.

The utilization of digital technologies in our schools is still in its infancy.  Diffusion of innovation theory describes how, why, and the rate in which new technologies, ideas, and processes weave their way into the fabric of society.  According to Everett Brown’s research on diffusion theory, there are four main factors that influence the process of adoption of an idea:

  1. The innovation itself
  2. How information about the innovation is communicated
  3. Time
  4. The nature of the environment the innovation is introduced in  (Rogers, 2003)

The decision to adopt a new idea, process, or technology is based on what Rogers calls the Innovation Decision Period (IDP).  The stages of the IDP are:


Innovation Decision Process (IDP) (1)


“The adoption of an innovation follows an S curve when plotted over a length of time.  The categories of adopters are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.” (“Diffusion of Innovations,” n.d.)  The adoption of digital technologies, aligned with sound pedagogical models of technology integration, which are used to make school more meaningful and personally relevant to learners are still in the ‘early adopter’ phase.  Several factors stand in the way of the diffusion of digital technologies in our public schools and include; inadequate funding, privacy issues related to FIPPA, general resistance to change, infrastructure issues, hype, and misuse.  According to Thompson (2014) classroom technology has a long history of hype that has rarely delivered.  From radio to television, these innovations have been positioned as saviours to the education system but have failed to live up to their claims.  I believe that schools need robust instructional frameworks to manage new technologies and avoid spending a whole pile of money on using digital technologies for the sake of digital technologies by replicating offline activities, online.


When embracing digital technologies in the classroom the SAMR model of technology integration is both simple and robust.  The model encourages educators to move the practice of using digital technologies from the acts substituting offline activities to online activities to creative new ways of creating, evaluating and sharing content.

SAMR Model

Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.

As educators move from positions of substituting offline for online activities to creating content, developing and sharing knowledge, they improve their instructional practice.  Embracing a model of technology integration like SAMR will increase the legitimacy of digital tools by the majority of educators, parents, and educational leaders.  At this point, comparisons with prophesied educational technology revolutions of the past, such as radio and television can end.  Resulting in a move towards creating a new vision of school where all stakeholders have a voice at the table.


Smarter Than You Think, a book by Clive Thompson, tackles this idea that change needs to be adopted in our education system.  His chapter titled Digital School helped me to question the purpose of using digital technologies in my classroom, and prompted me to critically-evaluate the tools I use.  Deciding whether or not to embrace digital technologies in schools is no longer the question we should be asking.  Instead, we should be asking how we can use digital technologies to create artefacts of learning, which are both authentic and meaningful?


Thompson’s discussion on the merits of coding in school were personally relevant as it coincided with my class’s participation in the Hour of Code.  I appreciated Thompson’s discussion around the work Seymour Papert championed in the 1960’s with his Logo programming language.  I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who struggles to make aspects of mathematics personally relevant to their students.  Unlike Logo, where students programmed a turtle to move around the screen during the Hour of Code, my students were making a character skate patterns in ice.  While I walked around the room, I observed several unique moments.  Students did not need to ask me constantly questions about a task; they seemed to understand what was required.  Secondly, I saw cycles of failure and success, which led to new learning.  I rarely see students take these kinds of risks in offline activities.  Thirdly, I saw students collaborate in more supportive ways than I have seen before.  Perhaps most importantly, from an educator’s perspective, I saw student’s experiment and develop new knowledge about mathematical concepts such as computational thinking, angles, and shape naming.  My Hour of Code was a complete success!  I certainly agree with Thompson when he says, “It proves that you learn by experimenting and making mistakes, and not by trying to be perfect the first time.” (Thompson, 2014)


Diffusion of Innovations. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved December 16, 2014, from

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.

Thompson, C. (2014). Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better. New York: The Penguin Group.

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