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Thinking about teacher attitudes to technology May 12, 2014

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD.
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If we weren’t able to help our students appreciate their current capabilities, how they might improve and how to set about that, we’d be failing in our duties as teachers. But how do we know our own level of capabilities, at least in regard to the use of learning technologies? By what yardstick can we measure our own progress? Without that, how can we even begin to see a path forward?

In the quest to find answers to these questions, I’ve come across a whole raft of contenders:


creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by langwitches: http://flickr.com/photos/langwitches/5687009271

1. SAMR – Proposed by Reuben Puentedura, you can find a helpful set of resources which delve into the topic in more detail here. The model is incredibly useful for reflecting on the role of technologies in activities developed for using with our learners. Its simple four level scale, divided into the two domains of enhancement and transformation is accessible, understandable and enables teachers to quickly consider the impact that technology might have on the learning process. However measurement against the SAMR model needs to be undertaken on an activity by activity basis; in one lesson with one group of students, you might be undertaking an activity at the Modification level, whilst during the very next lesson with a different group (or even the same one) technology might simply be used at the Substitution level. That’s absolutely fine. Technology isn’t always used to take us to new places, sometimes it simply helps make a task that little bit more manageable. Some people see the levels as a ladder and that we should aspire to climb the rungs to Transformational enlightenment. So by recording all the activities we undertake using technology, progress could be measured as the overall level moves towards Redefinition. I don’t subscribe to that. If someone understands how to use technology at the higher levels and does so within their practice at appropriate times, whilst at others uses technology at the Substitution level, then that to me is acceptable. If they’re not in a position to do that, then perhaps remedial action does need to be taken.

Summary Indicators from the Florida Centre for Instructional Technology TIM

2. To get a better overview of how technology is being used across a teacher’s practice, across the curriculum or across a school, the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) offers itself up. Both that used by Florida and the one in Arizona have the same underpinnings and enable cross-referencing of five characteristics of meaningful technology integration at five different levels. Support for TIMs is extensive (lesson plans and video exemplars) and they offer useful lenses through which to view your own practice or that of others. The five characteristics quite rightly focus on the activities of the students and how they have been enabled or empowered to use technology … but I feel there are consequently areas within our own practice which are to some extent neglected.


Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

3. One powerful lens through which to view the use of technology in learning is the TPACK framework1 (Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) proposed by Mishra & Koehler1. This requires teachers to consider three different components of their practice. Any particular teaching situation or activity involving the use of technology will involve expertise across the three domains and require an appreciation of the roles of the technology, the subject or content and the pedagogy which enables the learning. Each teacher with each activity will encounter a unique context. In some circumstances where their content knowledge is well-grounded, they may wish to use a new technological tool and therefore need to reconsider their pedagogy, yet in another they may be teaching something for the first time and want to explore how to make the most of a tool they’re already adept with. The more often a teacher finds themselves at the heart of the diagram where all three domains intersect, or the degree to which they can see how to quickly navigate there, the more developed their practice is becoming. Powerful though TPACK may be, it is a framework more suited to deep reflection and devising appropriate curricula and lessons which incorporate the use of technology appropriately.

There are plenty of other frameworks cited in Knezek & Arrowood’s2 “Instruments for assessing educator progress in technology integration,” which can be divided into the three areas of attitudes, skill/competency and level of proficiency. Dating back to the turn of the millenium, some aspects within some of these instruments are now slightly dated, but nevertheless could be updated.

In the past we’ve asked colleagues to report on their skill levels with technology and subsequently put in place a programme to provide support. More recently we shifted the emphasis of our self-reporting process to towards capability, rather than plain skills. Now however I’m wondering whether we need to dig a little deeper and explore some of the underlying attitudes which determine teachers’ beliefs towards eLearning and technology use.
Never one to shirk a challenge then I’ve drafted a framework which draws inspiration from SAMR, TIM and to some extent CBAM (Concerns Based Adoption Model, mentioned in Knezek & Arrowood). The matrix suggests teacher attitudes at four possible levels, across ten aspects of technology integration, the idea being that colleagues would choose statements that best reflect their attitude. This would generate a profile (a radar chart might be useful here), hopefully indicating areas in which they might be open to change. If nothing else, it should provide a starting point for discussion.

attitudinal matrix

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/14192259133

The big BUT though is whether these criteria and the statements at each level are valid. What do you think? What might you add, leave out or amend? Feel free to add your observations below, or do please add comments to the draft document.

As Christensen et al (2000)3 observed

…not every educator is best served by training aimed at some arbitrary level, and that different levels of integration may require different techniques.

Before we decide on a professional development strategy, we clearly need to know the levels.


1Mishra, P., Koehler, M., 2006. Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record 108, 1017–1054.

2Knezek, G.A., Arrowood, D.R., 2000. Instruments for assessing educator progress in technology integration. Institute for the Integration of Technology into Teaching and Learning, University of North Texas Denton. [online at http://www.iittl.unt.edu/pt3II/book1.htm, last accessed 12/05/2014]

3Christensen, R., Griffin, D., Knezek, G., 2001. Measures of Teacher Stages of Technology Integration and Their Correlates with Student Achievement.

Drawing a Tube Map – how hard can it be?! March 4, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Resources, Tools.
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Whilst I was working through my 365 project, it struck me that when concluded, to continue to be useful as a resource potential explorers would need a way of interrogating the posts. From the outset I made sure each post outlining a Web2.0 tool was tagged appropriately – with both a SAMR level and a category (or more than one) stating the affordances of the tool. The tags could then be used to filter posts corresponding to the type of tool a viewer might be seeking. However none of that could provide a overview and summary of all 366 posts and tools; for that I’d been considering using an infographic of some sort.

Right from the outset I’d had in my mind a graphic along the lines of the London underground map which had been morphed to use in other ways like Simon Patterson’s Great Bear which swapped the tube lines for fields or spheres of endeavour and the stations for people who were known in those spheres (like scientists, actors, authors etc), or Tubular Fells by Peter Burgess which used similar design principle to the Tube Map, but changed it to suit Lakeland Fells and walking routes. So in my version, Web Tube.0, the Web2.0 tools would be the stations, the categories of tools would be the lines and the SAMR categories become the zones. How hard could it be?!

Well it turned out … very! If I chose to use the London Underground system as a template (leaving aside the potential copyright pitfalls), with only 270 stations spread across 11 lines, I would be well short of my needs. I had 366 tools spread across 34 categories. So I tried using similar design principles (as Peter Burgess did in Tubular Fells), but quickly came to recognise the enormity of the task. The problem wasn’t drawing 366 stations on 34 lines, the real problem was where a tool fell into more than one category and the lines had to intersect … and some tools fell into four categories! In fact about half the tools fell into more than one category compared with less than a third on the Underground map. Then superimposed on top of that would be the zoning for the SAMR levels! Now all of that is doubtless doable and in fact I suspect a programmer could probably come up with some solution, but surprisingly an extensive search of the Web found few possibilities. Most ‘solutions’ suggest using graphics programmes like Inkscape, Illustrator or Freehand, but they seem to miss the problem – it’s not the graphical issues, it’s the computation that’s at the very heart of it. I came across a PhD thesis “Automated drawing of metro maps” which outlined the nature of the problem as follows:

Given a planar graph G of maximum degree 8 with its embedding and vertex locations (e.g. the physical location of the tracks and stations of a metro system) and a set L of paths or cycles in G (e.g. metro lines) such that each edge of G belongs to at least one element of L, draw G and L nicely. We first specify the niceness of a drawing by listing a number of hard and soft constraints. Then we show that it is NP-complete to decide whether a drawing of G satisfying all hard constraints exists. In spite of the hardness of the problem we present a mixed-integer linear program (MIP) which always finds a drawing that fulfils all hard constraints (if such a drawing exists) and optimizes a weighted sum of costs corresponding to the soft constraints. We also describe some heuristics that speed up the MIP and we show how to include vertex labels in the drawing. We have implemented the MIP, the heuristics and the vertex labelling.

I wasn’t reassured when further investigation led me to an application called Context Free which “… is a program that generates images from written instructions called a grammar” Err, yes, well I certainly found an example in the gallery that might help – 24 stations on 3 lines with only 4 points of intersection (& of only 2 stations each) required in excess of 750 lines of code (albeit some blank spacers & others single characters)!

Which is when I decided Web Tube.0 would go onto the back burner. I considered instead a dartboard or Mandala-style diagram which would adequately provide 34 sectors for the categories and outward protruding arcs for the SAMR levels, but I couldn’t easily resolve the issue of overlap where a tool spans several categories. I toyed briefly with the possibility of drawing a concept map (plenty of applications there), but once more it was the issue of the intersects. Recognising that the points of intersection were proving the stumbling block to this form of representation caused me to shift perspective and whilst considering, but rejecting the Periodic Table (overlapping categories once more!), I thought there might be merit in the grid-style layout. And that’s when I settled on:

366 Web2.0

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/8504100927/

It’s a simple alphabetic layout following the chronology of the posts and is only that shape for ease of viewing in its entirety; it could easily be a single row sweeping out an extended linear area … not so good for Web viewing perhaps? So at a glance the tools offering a particular SAMR level are easily identified. Finding tools in a particular category, for example concept mapping tools, requires a little deeper interrogation and perhaps at a higher zoom level. Whilst the colour coding helps here, some colours do tend to merge with their neighbours and are less easy to tell apart unless side-by-side.

I designed and created it using Inkscape, an open source, freely downloadable vector graphics editor … which means the output can be scaled without the pixelation you get if using a bitmap editor like Photoshop or GIMP. In addition it provides another useful feature for those viewing the output svg file using certain browsers, namely the capacity to add interactivity to the image. So moving forward it’s my intention to make filtering the complete toolset down to just the ones you’re looking for with a single click – so clicking on ‘Survey’ for example will hide all tools except for the survey ones. I know it’s possible, but I suspect it will take a few more hours work … assuming the audience wants it?! Be grateful for your feedback.

Looks like I picked the wrong year to … start a 365 project! December 20, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Tools, Web 2.0.
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cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by erg0: http://flickr.com/photos/erg0/5378263638/

As the New Year appears on the horizon, I watch people planning their 365 projects with a degree of envy, but a recognition that I’d be unlikely to sustain a photo a day for a whole year. I’d probably run out of steam or inspiration long before even January drew to a close.

And yet I still have a hankering to undertake a serious year-long project. But who says 365 projects have to be about photography? Might it be possible to have a crack at a 365 project with a completely different theme? Well for my 365 project, I make the rules and I decided the answer would be ‘Yes’ … and the theme would be Web 2.0 tools. Given the thousands that are out there, how hard can it possibly be to find just 365? Well OK, it is a leap year, so that’s just made it a little bit harder, but I’ll live with that.

Rather than just picking tools at random, I’ve already done the hard work of searching out the ones I thought might best suit our learning/school-based needs. You might like to speculate which ones made the cut. I first thought I might present them thematically; a week of presentation tools, then a week of something else. But in the end decided to add a little frisson of anticipation by simply launching them alphabetically! I’ll still be tagging them thematically however, so as the year progresses (assuming and hoping I have the stamina!), viewers will be able to filter those of particular interest.

Adding a few lines of descriptive or explanatory text would have been a little too easy, so since I’m less at ease in the oral medium, I’ve opted to push myself a little harder by producing a mini-podcast outlining what each tool offers. With that in mind, I also wanted to add one more layer to each post, in which I would offer a notional idea of the level of demand or learning complexity of each tool. At first I considered trying to assign each tool to a particular level on Bloom’s taxonomy, but that just didn’t seem right; I felt the level on Bloom’s is more related to the task being undertaken than the tool being used. As Silvia Tolisano observed with iPad apps, tools can be used in different ways at different times, so a tool’s position is likely to be somewhat fluid. In the end, having recently begun to read more about Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model, it seemed to lend itself more closely to how I wanted to classify the different tools.SAMR model Moreover, regular inspection and application of a framework is surely more likely to lead to greater understanding?

Assuming that each tool could work at least the ‘Substitution’ level, my task then would be to establish what further affordances might enable it to work at higher levels. So for each tool, I’ll offer a tentative level, but hope that folks might challenge my thinking, suggesting how they think a particular tool works at a different level.

Given that each daily post will mash together different resources, Posterous seemed the easiest tool to facilitate that, so you’ll find it’s all happening at 366 Web 2.0 Tools … well, OK not quite yet, but at least there’s a page of introduction and links to some of the sources I drew on. Roll on January 1st!