EDTECH 541 Course Reflections

May 3, 2010 at 4:18 am (ED TECH 541, Portfolio) (, , )

What I Learned

Coming into this course, I had minor experience incorporating technology into lesson activities. Additionally, while my job responsibilities at McGraw-Hill very much focus on evaluating and reviewing lesson and instructional design, I have much less experience actually creating lessons from scratch without lesson plans. In this course, I learned a great deal about some of the tools available for students and teachers to integrate the Internet as a resource in everyday class work. At the same, I was able to gain valuable first-hand practice in building lesson plans of my own, without subject-matter experts to guide every step.

As I worked through the course, I was able to reinforce my understanding of the importance of continued learning and reminded of the vast amount of information and the sheer volume of tools available on the Web. It is very overwhelming at times, and my favorites folders have swelled from all of the interesting and helpful links I encountered inside and outside of the course materials. This wealth of information supports the idea that both open source tools and materials and pre-developed lessons and packaged materials have important places in today’s classrooms. Teachers have an incredible responsibility, and the everyday tasks are very time consuming. While lessons and teaching can take place heavily influenced by Web materials, premade materials are still an important source of controlled learning to enhance learners’ growth.

AECT Standards Met (http://www.ncate.org/public/programStandards.asp?ch=4#AECT)

1.1.1.a Write appropriate objectives for specific content and outcome levels.

Each of the assignments for Weeks 4 through 13 of the course, as well as for the final thematic unit activity, included a list of objectives, and the final thematic unit activity includes evaluation/assessment components that delineate outcome levels and associated metrics.

1.1.2.a Create a plan for a topic of a content area (e.g., a thematic unit, a text chapter, an interdisciplinary unit) to demonstrate application of the principles of macro-level design.

For EDTECH 541, I created a thematic unit around the big idea in social studies – Production. Various technology and Internet resources were researched and incorporated in the final thematic unit lesson plans. 

1.1.2.b Create instructional plans (micro-level design) that address the needs of all learners, including appropriate accommodations for learners with special needs.

Week 14 included specific information about how to incorporate accommodations for diverse learners, as well as a blog post discussing the importance of including these accommodations for learners. Additionally, accommodations are included in the final thematic unit lesson plans.

1.1.2.d Incorporate contemporary instructional technology processes in the development of interactive lessons that promote student learning.

Throughout the course, technology materials have been included as part of each lesson activity developed for the thematic unit and incorporated in the final thematic unit activity.

1.1.3.a Produce instructional materials which require the use of multiple media (e.g., computers, video, projection).

The thematic unit activities require the use of computer technology, a microphone for recording an audio blog, posting a video to a free video-sharing Web site, creating a Glogster poster presentation, and working with a presentation software as part of a team.

1.1.3.b Demonstrate personal skill development with at least one: computer authoring application, video tool, or electronic communication application.

Throughout this course, I have further refined my ability to develop Web pages using Dreamweaver and I have maintained a blog for the first time for weekly assignments.

1.1.5.a Utilize a variety of assessment measures to determine the adequacy of learning and instruction.

Several types of products and assessments were incorporated in the thematic unit materials.

2.1.3 Use presentation application software to produce presentations and supplementary materials for instructional and professional purposes.

Students were encouraged to use online tools that act as presentation tools (eBook, Glogster, presentation software, and so on) for several assignments during the course.

2.2.3 Use appropriate video equipment (e.g., camcorders, video editing) to prepare effective instructional and professional products.

We completed a video blog for one assignment and a voice thread for another assignment. I incorporated these tools an another assignment during the course that was built into a learning activity for students.

2.3.2 Design, produce, and use digital information with computer-based technologies.

In EDTECH 541, I have used Dreamweaver to create online lesson plans, WordPress to maintain a weekly blog entry, Glgoster to create an online lesson, created a video library of resources, researched a potential budget for purchasing educational technology tools, research assistive technologies for students with diverse learning needs, and created a video and voice response activity. The list could go on and on, as the entire course involved the use of computer-based technologies in the creation of coursework.

2.3.4* Incorporate the use of the Internet, online catalogs and electronic databases to meet the reference and learning needs of students and teachers.

The main focus of this class was to incorporate Internet tools and resources in lesson activities for students.

2.4.1 Use authoring tools to create effective hypermedia/multimedia instructional materials or products.

We used a variety of online tools to create materials for the course. Glogs, video blogs, WordPress accounts, eBooks, and voice threads, just to name a few.

2.4.4 Use telecommunications tools such as electronic mail and browsing tools for the

World Wide Web to develop instructional and professional products.

Browsing tools are essential to the creation of materials for this course, as well as essential for the development of learning activities for potential students.

2.4.5 Develop effective Web pages with appropriate links using various technological tools (e.g., print technologies, imaging technologies, and video).

Throughout out the semester, I have created Web pages for EDTECH541 connected to my Ed Tech homepage for BSU.

2.4.8* Prepare instructional materials, bibliographies, resource lists for instructional units, and other materials as appropriate to support students and teachers.

We created example activities and other support materials in the creation of lessons for this course.

3.4.1 Identify and apply standards for the use of instructional technology.

Identifying and correlating to NETS is an important, and graded, aspect of the thematic unit lesson plan structure.

4.1.1 Apply project management techniques in various learning and training contexts.

As the holder of a Project Management Professional, this standard hits home with me. Every lesson and project completed requires solid project management in the development of learning materials. To complete lessons on time and with specified feedback, a strong plan must be in place for each week’s assignment.

Professional Growth

While I am not a teacher, and do not hold a teaching certificate, I do work in educational publishing, so my professional growth based on all my courses and Boise State is varied and important. EDTECH 541 ended up being very timely for me, as my current role at McGraw-Hill is creating a new reading intervention program for grades 3-8, with technology as the leading component of the program. In particular, one of the three rotations of the program, a 40-minute block of time, five days a week, is comprised of a project-based learning with a focus on both writing and 21st century skills and constructs. Many of the projects in the course have helped in the development of the instructional design for this project-based learning. Specifically, we have been exploring free online tools and a poster tool for presentation. The work in building a technology budget encouraged me to find some free online tools, and those immediately became part of the toolset for the program I am working on. Additionally, Glogster has served as a spectacular model for what we had already planned on doing to enhance an existing poster-creation tool for my company.

Outside of the project-based learning, I have incorporated my learning in other areas. The way Dr. Gerstein has encouraged us to work through the materials has greatly enhanced my understanding of how to build materials in preparation for my BSU portfolio. This has been a fantastic side benefit of this course. However, more importantly now, the course required that we build our materials to share online (I chose to continue with the BSU personal Web site) and to maintain a blog. Both my work on the Web pages and on the blog have turned out to be very useful to me both in my current job and in my efforts to land a new position with a greater direct relation to educational technology. For instance, with the short-form writing and with links in hand, I have been able to use my coursework as writing and technology samples for several jobs I have pursued. Additionally, I was able to quickly and effectively create a Web site for sharing work samples to focus group participants for our new program by leveraging the skills I have gained in this course.

Change in Teaching Methods/Thinking of Teaching Based on Course Assignments

While I of course knew there were innumerable Web resources for education, the tasks in this course helped to focus me on some of the more important and widely used tools available on the Web. The projects and assignments provided insight on tools, practice and application of skills, and experience looking for the right materials in the right places. I was required to use tools that I have reviewed in the past, but never really thought about including in my assignments or in my work experience. Often, we default to including some basic productivity tools or simple Web searching or Webquests in lessons, but the effort to really step through the process and incorporate the Internet into lesson plans can take teaching in an entirely different direction.

My instructional design experience has long been on the side of directed instruction. Often, this end of the educational spectrum is tied to teaching of core knowledge and facts, as opposed to the use of 21st century tools. I would posit, however, that this is either a simplification or a result of older programs and materials that have not been revised to really focus on how technology can be incorporated successfully. Throughout this course, I have been able to create assignments that are true to the teacher-directed instructional design I know well, but also include new tools and content creation tasks students need in today’s classroom. In the end, that is what I think I will take away from this course; a clear exemplification of how these two, often conflicting approaches to instruction can be combined into cohesive learning activities.

How Theory Guided Project Development and Assignments

I have to go back to the first assignment of the course to really start a discussion of how theory guided my assignments. One concept is based on a presentation I participated in by David Warlick in 2008. In his presentation, Mr. Warlick focused on how we are facing an uncertain future, but with unprecedented tools to approach that future. (2008) The second piece I re-reference here is a research paper about the economic impact of neglecting technology for today’s students. (McKinsey, 2009) These references lead me to choose the big idea of production for my thematic unit. I wanted to address how technology can be used to take student from being consumers to creators of content, but, at the same time, introduce them to the idea that the world truly is shrinking and that technology tools are essential for communication and growth across their school, and, eventually, career choices.

There are other theories and concepts that certainly played their role in my work—the importance of 21st century skills and learning goals, Blooms Digital Taxonomy, among others; however, they were more on the assignment-by-assignment basis. The first two concepts are the guiding reasons why I have chosen to work on an Educational Technology degree. As the father of two young children, I see the absolute importance of building education, communication skills, and digital know-how throughout their lives. We, as educators, must make a commitment to take technology from the land of theory into the world of reality.


McKinsey & Company, Social Sector Office. (2009). The economic impact of the achievement gap in America’s schools. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from: http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/achievement_gap_report.pdf.

Warlick, D. (2008, June 30). Our students, our worlds . Presentation at the National Educational Computing Conference, San Antonio, TX.


Permalink 1 Comment

How Technology Can Level the Playing Field

April 22, 2010 at 3:09 am (ED TECH 541, Portfolio) (, , , , , , , , )

Free, compulsory public education is a given in the United States. It has not always been this way, and it certainly isn’t that way around the world. That often gets lost in the shuffle of discussing the future of our future education. However, even within our school system, we have long left many students out in the cold for a variety of reasons—race, religion, gender, and those students with disabilities. Some of this inequity was resolved through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. At the same time, children with disabilities were still not being included fully in the education process. With the creation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the 1970’s, attention was finally being paid to ALL students. IDEA put into place six general principals, and, for the first time, gave a clear definition to who these students are. (Parent Mentors of Ohio)

Six Principals

  • free appropriate public education
  • appropriate evaluation
  • individualized education program
  • least restrictive environment
  • parent and student participation in decision making
  • procedural due process

Who Qualifies for Special Education?

  • Mental retardation
  • Hearing impairment (including deafness)
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Visual Impairment (including blindness)
  • Serious emotional disturbance
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Autism
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Other health impairment (now includes ADD/ADHD)
  • Specific learning disability

Simply having the principals and categories laid out by an important piece of legislation is not enough to ensure equal access to education, and, even when there is access, a fair and equitable education for these students with special needs. This gap has spurred many different groups to step in and try to create educational materials and processes that ensure every child has access to a quality education. One such group is the National Center on Response to Intervention. Response to Intervention (RtI) combines individual education plans, assessment, and intervention activities into a school-wide or district-wide system of implementation to meet the diverse needs of all learners. (National Center on Response to Intervention) With the increased acceptance of this plan of attack, it has become increasingly important for teachers to reach all learners to ensure success. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the testing requirements outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB, and its eventual re-authorization, have increased the impetus of schools to meet each child’s needs. Okay, so meeting all learners’ needs is a valid goal and something almost all teachers want to do. With the increased pressure, teachers need new tools to reach these diverse learners as outlined above. And technology can do just that! Whenever I think of technology leveling the playing field for all learners, I start with two sources. First, the federal government created a set of Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards, known best as Section 508. If I am going to build a technology component or incorporate a component in a program, I want to make sure that it meets minimum accessibility standards, and Section 508 is a great starting point. (National Archives, 2001) I would then evaluate a product to see if it complies with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles as laid out by the Center for Applied Special Technology. (CAST, Inc., 2010) By choosing programs and publishers of content that can demonstrate Section 508 compliance and that adhere to UDL standards, you are ensuring that many students will be able to access the content you are presenting.

Standards and design principles are important to many categories of special needs learners, and ensuring appropriate Response to Intervention is an essential starting point for building student learning. But what are some of the actual tools for reaching students? It would be nearly impossible, and is certainly outside of the scope of this blog entry, to try and list them all. Instead, I can quickly list a few ideas that show the power of technology to reach learners and some resources to go to find tools for specific needs. The tools listed below are not even the tip of the iceberg; assistive and learning technologies are available to a mind-bogglingly overwhelming degree. Technology Tools

  • Screen readers and text-to-speech tools—These tools help students with visual impairment to access content on a screen in ways they would never be able to do with print, becoming part of the general classroom.
  • Close captioning—For students with auditory deficits, captions are becoming an increasingly available option for accessing voiced materials.
  • Skype or other streaming video chat—Students who are unable to attend classes in person for a variety of reasons can become part of the classroom with their peers.
  • Practice software—Individualized, CD-ROM or Web-based software that provides just-in-time, targeted instruction has the potential to reach kids where they need instruction most. If the software includes remediation and differentiated feedback, it is like having a teacher’s aide in the classroom.
  • Collaboration and communication tools—Students that may struggle with learning English or be reluctant to participate in class with other students can become more participative by using Whiteboard clickers, leaving audio or video blogs, and so on. This involvement enhances their learning experience

Web Sites to Assist in Selecting Assistive Technologies


CAST, Inc. (2010) UDL guidelines—version 1.0: introduction. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines

National Archives and Resources Administration. (Dec 21, 2001). Electronic and information technology accessibility standards. (Federal Register) Retrieved from http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/standards.htm

Parent Mentors of Ohio. (n.d.). The history of IDEA. Retrieved from http://www.thelinkto.org/parentmentor/history_of_idea.htm

National Center on Response to Intervention. (n.d.). What is RtI? Retrieved from http://www.rti4success.org/

Permalink 2 Comments

Integrating Arts across the Curriculum

April 18, 2010 at 8:52 pm (ED TECH 541) (, , , , , , , )

For anyone following schools over the last five to ten years, there is no secret that arts classes and physical education are taking a backseat to math and reading instruction to allow schools to meet the strict goals set forth within the No Child Left Behind Act. It is clear that the arts are often seen as “effective and expressive, not academic or cognitive,” allowing that instruction to easily be pushed to the wayside. (Holcomb, 2007) However, there is a growing body of evidence showing that the arts are an integral part of the curriculum, and should be integrated into the curriculum wherever possible.

A compendium of research from the Arts Education Partnership (Deasy, 2002) identified upwards of 65 distinct relationships between teaching the arts in educational settings and increasing social and academic success. These 65 relationships demonstrate the power of the arts in the curriculum. The compendium took these 65 relationships and separated them into six major categories of benefits tied to student growth. The six categories include the following.

  1. Reading and Language Skills
  2. Mathematics Skills
  3. Thinking Skills
  4. Social Skills
  5. Motivation to Learn
  6. Positive School Environment

What to do with the arts then? How can we justify spending the time to incorporate them into the curriculum, based on the evidence showing that they are valuable pieces of the education puzzle? We have to find a place for the instruction within the school day. The idea of integrating arts across the curriculum allows us, as educators, to try to work the arts in where there is time. Whether that is reader’s theater or creating music videos or any other of a number of activities, the idea is to turn the students into creators of content and interpreters of content. And that is where technology comes in. There is an incredible array of technology tools out there for incorporating the arts into the curriculum, and with the increasing focus on 21st century tools and technology in the classroom, this is another way to bring arts into the curriculum and demonstrating their value.

Using technology tools in the arts also provides many students an outlet for creativity that they would otherwise struggle to create. Speaking as someone who has some ability in music, but no creative/artistic gene, I always dreaded drawing or modeling activities. With technology tools, I would have had a creative medium and tool set that otherwise was unavailable to me, helping me to be more involved in certain projects. Below I am sharing a few links that provide access to online tools for the arts.

  • Mr. Picassohead—(http://www.mrpicassohead.com/) With this site, any student can draw like Picasso. When studying fine art, a site like this offers a great opportunity for all students to create, share, and appreciate concepts embodied in the work of one of the world’s great artists.
  • ToonDoo—(http://www.toondoo.com/) This site is an example of a comic-strip generation tool available online. These sites allow the arts to be incorporated into the reading and writing curriculum. Of course, it is best to choose the site wisely, as you have to be careful about what strips others have made and posted.
  • Myna—(http://aviary.com/tools/myna) Aviary’s Myna tool serves as a free, online product very similar to Garage Band in many ways. A tool like this provides even the most musically ungifted individuals to create a musical masterpiece!
  • 3D Modeling Software—(http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/25-free-3d-modelling-applications-you-should-not-miss/) A variety of free, online tools exist for incorporating 3D modeling into the classroom. While not specifically one of the “arts,” it is a way to pull in artistic representations of student work.
  • Art Education 2.0—(http://arted20.ning.com/) On this site, teachers looking for innovative tools for incorporating arts instruction through technology can discuss ideas with others and have access to some successful things other teachers have done. A great resource for learning through the arts.

These sites are only a small representation of the many, many sites out there for integrating the arts into the classroom. There are options out there for everything you can think of. It is simply a matter of finding what you really want!


Deasy, R., ed. (2002). Critical links: student academic and social development. Retrieved from Arts Education Partnership at http://aep-arts.org/files/research/CriticalLinks.pdf

 Holcomb, S. (January, 2002). State of the arts. NEA Today. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/home/10630.htm

Permalink 1 Comment

Relative Advantage for Teaching History with Technology

April 9, 2010 at 2:56 am (ED TECH 541) (, , , , , )

Using technology to make history come alive for students can have several advantages. Many students find the study of history difficult, abstract or boring, or have difficulty making personal connections to the past because it is so different from their own lives. The greatest learning comes when students can make those connections and find common bonds with what they are learning. Some of the available technologies are now able to provide those connections between students and history, causing times of the past to be more than material on a page or even a slide on a screen.

One of the advantages of using interactive technology, such as a web site that allows students to develop a character and to travel through a time period, is that students are in control of their own choices and are able to navigate through the time period on their own. On one web site, www.tenement.org/immigrate, students travel virtually from Europe to America, choosing which items they bring with them, enter the country through Ellis Island, and choose how they will work once they are settled in the new country, all with the help of a recent immigrant girl. Students will remember and enjoy their time spent “playing” with this information much more clearly than if they had simply been lectured on how immigrants came to America, or if they had read a textbook with the information. Because the web site is set up as a game with many options, such as choosing different names for one’s passport, students will be motivated to play it more than once and be more likely to retain the information even more.

Students are also granted greater access to artifacts and primary sources if they have access to the Internet. With the huge number of web sites that are available, students can view artifacts for almost any time period they are studying, allowing those to see articles they would not otherwise ever have had the access to in the past.  At the site, http://memory.loc.gov, students can view letters actually written by Abraham Lincoln that are part of the Stern Collection. There are many other artifacts on this site that are part of this collection, giving students a more complete picture of one of America’s greatest presidents. This is also more interactive than photographs on a page, as the images can be turned and rotated, giving the viewer a complete image of three-dimensional objects rather than a flat image from a book.

Another obvious advantage that technology holds over traditional learning resources is that students are able to engage all of their senses more fully. Learning does not just take place in the mind, but also with the ears, the eyes, and the whole body. Sites like www.americaslibrary.gov take this into consideration and encourage students to listen to music from different eras of America’s history, watch short films of time periods, and play games trying out their knowledge of American history, such as “Super Sleuth,” in which students look at photographs of important events in American history and identify the object that does not belong. The more a student is an engaged, the more likely he or she is learning. Sites like these are also designed to give students choices and to encourage lots of exploration, which keeps the students coming back time and again, reinforcing the information learned and exposing them to more.

Making history fun and accessible is perhaps one of the biggest advantages that technology is giving teachers today. Allowing students to play games with historical settings, themes, or characters is all part of that. Using mobile phones with game software, teachers have found a way to engage students while visiting archaeological sites thousands of years old. Students play games that are virtual “treasure hunts” that help them to visualize the original formations of building that are now almost completely destroyed, and teachers report significant increases in student engagement. (Ardito, Costabile, Lanzilotti, & Pederson, 2007.) Use of mobile phone software to engage students in field trips more fully could be extended to more than just archaeological sites; the above research is now quite old and phones were nowhere near as capable three years ago as they are now. It is feasible to expect that this application of the use of technology in teaching history will only become more applicable and relevant in education as time passes.


Ardito, C., Costabile, M.F., Lanzilotti, R., Pederson, T. (2007). Making dead history come alive through mobile game-play. Retrieved from  http://www.di.uniba.it/~ivu/papers/CHI07_ardito_GaiusDay.pdf

Several of the above sources were found at www.historyexplorer.americanhistory.si.edu, a search engine provided on the Smithsonian web site for teachers.

Permalink 1 Comment

Integrating Language Arts into Your Curriculum

March 21, 2010 at 1:55 am (ED TECH 541) (, , , , , , , )

I have spent all eleven years of my professional career working on reading and language arts programs for the K-8 classroom, so you can guess how important I think it is to incorporate language arts into the curriculum. My thoughts are summed up very well, if in a little more of a touchy-feely way than I would probably say it, in the following quote.
“Language is key to students’ intellectual, social, and emotional growth; and, is a necessary means to learning in all disciplines.” (Rend & Paquette, 2006) I absolutely believe this to be the case, and I have seen this first hand. As I have visited classrooms and participated in field testing for our programs, I have witnessed struggling learners from the worst of possible backgrounds suddenly blossom into confident, successful students by growing their reading and language strengths.

Mildred Donoghue in Chapter 4 of Language Arts: Integrating Skills for Classroom Teaching describes language arts as the gateway to the listening, speaking, reading, writing, and viewing skills and strategies needed to succeed across the curriculum. (Donoghue, 2008) In order to truly access content-area learning, students must have a solid foundation in language arts, or they will struggle with the text and information they are being presented. Science and social studies textbooks, math story problems, music lyrics, all become a challenge without strong language arts skills. Communicating what you have learned or believe is an essential task in schools and in the workplace; again incredibly challenging without language arts skills. The same can be said for listening to lectures in high school and college. The list goes on.

Of course, this class is focusing on the importance of incorporating technology across different teaching experiences. Language arts instruction most definitely can benefit from the use of technology in the learning experience. I often go back to something I read many years ago about the value of technology in the classroom, but specifically tied to language arts in the classroom. “Technology has everything to do with literacy. And being able to use the latest electronic technologies has everything to do with being literate.” (Bolter, 1991) There is truth in that. As the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has worked to demonstrate, using literacy without technology in this day and age is not truly literacy. I agree to some extent, but would not quite go that far. In my opinion, language arts skills and technological literacy SHOULD go hand in hand, but you can build language arts skills and then apply them to technology literacy.

In thinking how language arts can be, there are myriad opportunities to do so. For one of the assignments I completed for my thematic unit, I had the kids searching the Internet, then presenting content to the class. Both the act of searching and presenting information represent the incorporation of language arts. On the schedule of assignments, there is a week where we will be creating a Glogster online poster; using this presentation medium is another way to incorporate language arts into the curriculum. During the week 8 assignment, I had the students in my class working in teams to respond to a series of questions in writing, a great opportunity to use language using technology tools. Other opportunities for incorporating language arts I am sure will present themselves over the semester. At the same time, I can see incorporating journal-writing assignments, paired reading and discussion practice, report writing activities, responding to youtube/classroom lectures, and other examples of language arts in the assignments.


Bolter, J. D. (1991). Writing space: The computer, hypertext, and the history of writing. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Donoghue, Mildred. (2008). Language arts. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Martin Rend, J. & Paquette, D.K.R. (2006). “Using Technology to Integrate Language Arts Across the Curriculum”. In C. Crawford et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2006 (pp. 3276-3277). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved March 20, 2010 from http://www.editlib.org/p/22596.

Permalink 1 Comment

The Case for Multimedia in the Classroom

March 2, 2010 at 4:20 am (ED TECH 541) (, , , )

Permalink Leave a Comment

Why Use Spreadsheets and Databases in the Classroom

February 20, 2010 at 3:02 am (ED TECH 541) (, , , , )

When someone uses the term spreadsheet or database, most people think about businesses; specifically how these electronic tools can enhance the day-to-day operations and effectiveness of employees. Or maybe you think of researchers collecting copious amounts of information and needing a way to track, store, and evaluate bits of information. However, these tools can be powerful instructional agents for students across the learning spectrum! In order to understand how these tools can be used in classrooms, we first have to understand what a spreadsheet is and what it can do, as well as how it differs from a database.

 Spreadsheets—In general terms, a spreadsheet is defined as a worksheet or table consisting of values organized in rows and columns. Over time, the term spreadsheet has grown to mean both a worksheet and the computer programs that are used to create worksheets. Spreadsheets allow us to automate formulas that would otherwise take hours to hand-calculate, while also including organizational display features that enhance how we share the numbers and data we are collecting.

 Databases—These electronic tools provide invaluable data collection and search options. Databases are not specifically classified along with productivity tools like spreadsheets, word processors, and so on, but, at the same time, they do indeed have the power to enhance productivity by simplifying and speeding up how we work. Using databases is essential for organizing large amounts of information and beginning to look for patterns or like characteristics in data to drive decision making, research, targeted responses, across a range of fields.

 Database or Spreadsheet?

As technology tools both spreadsheets and databases can be used to organize, sort, and report data. At the same time, they have some very important differences. In general terms, if you are looking for formulas and calculations or are using small, manageable amounts of data, then spreadsheets are for you. On the other hand, if you are looking to compare differing sets of data and need to sort and report bits and pieces in different combinations, or if you are working with large amounts of data, then a database is likely worth the time to learn to use and manage. Karyn Stille from QCI Solutions, Inc., provided the following simple breakdown of when one tool is better than the other.

” In a Nutshell Use a database if…

  • the information is a large amount that would become unmanageable in spreadsheet form and is related to a particular subject.
  • you want to maintain records for ongoing use.
  • the information is subject to many changes (change of address, pricing changes, etc.).
  • you want to generate reports based on the information.

Use a spreadsheet if…

  • you want to crunch numbers and perform automatic calculations.
  • you want to track a simple list of data.
  • you want to easily create charts and graphs of your data.
  • you want to create “What-if” scenarios.

In most cases, using the combination of a database to store your business records and a spreadsheet to analyze selected information works best.”

Relative Advantage for Using these Tools in the Classroom

When looking at using spreadsheets and databases in the classroom, the easy reasons center around a few key points.

  1. Real-life tools and situations—These are tools used in many walks of life, providing a real-life application of technology.
  2. Focusing learning on high-order thinking—Instead of focusing learning on calculations or organization, these tools focus learning on understanding and exploring data.
  3. Efficiency and consistency of learning activities—As educators, we can provide consistent, efficient learning activities by providing initial content in a database or spreadsheet, making it easier to provide everyone the same information to start with, and setting up the lesson or activity with minimal student effort.
  4. Visualizing and reporting data—Both spreadsheets and databases provide support for taking data and sharing it in visualized and sorted, easy-to-read ways.

 For more information on some of the advantages and difficulties for incorporating spreadsheets in classroom teaching, see the following report from teach-nology.com: http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/excel/print.htm.

 For a similar information for using databases in the classroom, see this report from teach-nology.com: http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/databases/print.htm.


Stille, K. Database vs. spreadsheet. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from QCI Solutions, Inc. website: http://www.qcisolutions.com/dbinfo1.htm

Permalink Leave a Comment

What Is Technological Literacy

February 5, 2010 at 8:51 pm (ED TECH 541) (, , , , )

There are a number of ways to define technological literacy, and there are many definitions out there. I won’t spend time rehashing them here, mainly because I believe their definitions of technological literacy to be too limiting. They are foundational points to my view of the definition of technological literacy, so I do want to discuss them briefly. A great starting point, of course, would be the Framework for 21st Century Learning. (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009) I particularly identify with the description including an emphasis on knowing the right tool for the job, knowing how to use that tool successfully, and knowing the ethical and moral considerations around this usage. The importance of successfully processing the massive amount of information being presented to us, at all times anymore, is paramount for success in school, at work, and throughout life. And that is where I find definitions like the Framework limiting.

 For me, the idea of technological literacy goes beyond know what the tools are and how they work. What is equally important, and a partner to this, is how separate this technical skills are from what we consider traditional content and skills and strategies for accessing this content. One step in this direction is the work Andrew Churches completed in creating a digital taxonomy for the eponymous Bloom’s Taxonomy. (Churches, 2008) In his digital taxonomy, Churches focuses on the importance of understanding not only the tools and uses of the tools, but the high-order thinking skills and strategies that must be part of a learner’s experience and skill set to access new learning with the technological literacy they have created. This belief is the center of an ongoing debate between the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the proponents of Core Knowledge. (Troppo, 2009) In the end, I tend to believe they are both right. What is technological literacy without a cognitive map and learning plan? At the same time, what is content without the appropriate educational technologies for today’s students?

 A movement is afoot to develop a set of common core standards. (NGA and CCSSO, 2010) In my position as a content developer for a major publisher, I hear both sides of the argument, and it can be fierce, as to whether core standards are good or bad. In the end, however, I see it more from a functional, instructional standpoint. The core standards are coming. So, what does that mean for general instructional literacy and for technological literacy? A priority has been placed initially on college and career readiness for the common core standards. This should, in theory, force proponents of core knowledge and 21st century skills and constructs to re-evaluate their stances on technological and instructional literacy and how they can be combined for the ultimate endgame—preparing kids for college and career success. As the core standards track down the grades, teachers, instructional designers, and researchers have an opportunity, and likely an imperative, to redefine technological literacy to include all aspects of instructional literacy and incorporate the concept of putting theory into practice in a proven pedagogical approach that leads to both content and functional mastery.


Churches, A. (2008, April 1). Bloom’s taxonomy blooms digitally.   Available: http://www.techlearning.com/article/8670

 National Governors Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010, February 5). The common core standards initiative. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/

 Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2009). Framework for 21st century learning. Last update May 27, 2009. Available: http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/index.php  

 Troppo, Greg. (2009, March 5). What to Learn: ‘Core Knowledge’ or ‘21st-century skills’? USA Today, Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core-knowledge_N.htm

Permalink 2 Comments

How Is Educational Technology Defined

February 5, 2010 at 8:45 pm (ED TECH 541) (, )

Educational technology in most recent terms tends to mean the use of digital computer technology in particular. Computer technology is widely used to administer, manage and help individuals research information; however, “educational technology is only concerned with technology as it impacts upon the learning process, e.g. in delivering learning materials, facilitating communication and providing assessment and feedback.” (twinisles.com, 2010) Educational Technology is often defined in today’s world as educating students with the help of technology. A teacher using technology such as a computer, videos on the smart board, webcast lectures, and online-exams can do the teaching in a traditional classroom. Teachers in traditional classrooms also use technology to track their students’ grades in online programs. This would also include professors on college campuses who use Blackboard to share information with students such as their grades. Educational technology also spans beyond the traditional classroom when students use technology to be instructed completely online.

 Another way to define educational technology, though, is to look at it from an instructional design perspective. In other words, educational technology refers to the process of identifying the correct instructional approach for the intended instruction or target learner. (Walden, 2005) This may, indeed, include content delivered digitally to students. At the same time, I would extend that definition to include any realia or teaching tool used in the classroom. For me, teaching students in pre-school through hand puppets is using educational technology as an instructional aid. The question becomes one of what is the right technology for the specific skill, strategy, or content being introduced.

 Educational Technology has many different names. For example, you may have heard it referred to as e-learning or learning technology. Despite all the different names, it just means that the instructional methods and tools being used to support the learning process are well thought out and help to ensure learner success.


This site is simple. It looks like an ed-tech student just like us designed it. That’s why I liked this page; because it was easy to navigate and the information is written in language that even a newbie to educational technology can understand. All the information given about educational technology appears to come from reputable folks like college professors, but I did not review all of them, of course. http://cutshall.myweb.uga.edu/itdefhome.html

 This site was designed for teachers and learners alike. It provides a wealth of information about educational technology and its related fields such as distance learning. It explains how certain aspects of educational technology (simulations and games, digital course material, PowerPoint lectures, audio-visual resources, etc) will improve your classroom. http://edtech.twinisles.com/

 This site, the Teacher’s Reference Desk, provides four areas to help increase your knowledge about and use of educational technology in your classroom. First, resource guides—links you to professional journal articles about educational technology. Second, lesson plans—links you to educational technology lessons. Third, Question/Archives—answers specific questions about Educational Technology. Fourth, Search GEM/ERIC—links you to ERIC articles concerning Educational Technology. http://www.eduref.org/cgi-bin/res.cgi/Educational_Technology

 The international Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) site is dedicated to helping teachers connect with resources that will help them effectively use technology in their classroom. http://www.iste.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Educator_Resources


This five-minute video clip titled, Looking Backward, Thinking Forward effectively shows how technology has changed in the classroom over the past century. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdwEIi22Dv8

 This four-minute video titled, Educational Technology Careers, shows different jobs available to people who have an ED-TECH degree. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QgnpNPIx4&feature=related


Educational technology insight for educators and technologists. (2010, February 5). Retrieved from http://edtech.twinisles.com/

 Walden, S. (2005). Educational Technology.In  B. Hoffman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of

Educational Technology. Retrieved: February 5, 2010, from http://edweb.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/edtech/start.htm

Permalink Leave a Comment