EdTech 501: My final thoughts. . .

It is strange thinking about being done with this course, especially as I am just at the beginning of my journey at BSU. Like most people have already articulated, it seems to have come around quickly. I have always found it hard to leave things. I’m the guy that doesn’t like ‘goodbye’ just a ‘see you later,’ and so finishing something that has actually been incredibly important in my life has been strange and disconcerting.

I have not been at Grad school in a long time so studying again was daunting. I studied in Europe at the University of Edinburgh and so I worried about the differences and cultural challenges I might face. I have a full time job and a two and a half year old and wasn’t sure I would make it 2 weeks let alone a whole semester. I did know that I needed the challenge. When decided to do this course in March, I stepped down from my Leadership role in school. I went from Head of our Upper Elementary school to 5th grade teacher. I decided that teacher, administrator, father, husband and student were too much for me. Although it was incredibly difficult to walk away and perhaps even make a big career error, I can say that I am glad that I did and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Overly dramatic? Maybe, but life has a way of just helping you do the right thing.

The week before the courses started (I took 543 social media learning which I highly recommend as well) my wife and mother were both diagnosed with cancer. Devastating. I wasn’t sure that I should continue but I figured that I had to try. Maybe it was selfish – I’m not sure.

Studying has been my refuge. I have worked harder in the last 4 months than at any time since my first year as a teacher. It hasn’t been easy to juggle and fill all the roles I need to. I am constantly dissatisfied with my own performance but don’t beat myself up about it, just learn and move on. Education is important. Thats it, it’s important. It should be the most important thing. Always. Our house is quiet at nights everyone is in bed early and so I have studied and learned and found that I enjoy it more than I did when I was young. I am seeing life through the eyes of my students again and it has given me the energy to make sure that every day in my class I walk in with a big smile and remember how important my job is.

The challenges I faced were just getting things done. I managed. Often at the last minute and sometimes with some stress but that was really it. The learning activities and tasks were interesting, fair and thought provoking, so I was never bored.

I found that I just needed to adopt a routine and stick to it. I would study 2 days for each course at a time, in the evening when everyone was in bed . . . and drink espresso at midnight and get it done. On the weekend, Saturday was 543 and Sunday was 501. I told my wife to take no pity on me and that seemed to work too! She supported me 100% and has been my inspiration. What are a few late nights compared to what she is going through? Not a lot really.

The artifact which I am most happy with is my School Evaluation Summary because I have put heart and soul into my school in the last 7 years and I think this might really impact and make a difference to a place which I care about deeply. I took time to consult and ask others and wrote reflections which opened my eyes to many things, good and bad.

I am already using many of the things which I have learned in school. My 5th grade all have Glogster accounts now and my school evaluation will be shared with our school leadership team in the near future. I think about ethics much more and know that I will always struggle to cite a source properly and that OWL at Purdue is now a favorite in Safari.

I wrote in my reflection for 543 that I was, ‘all in’ and so I am. Education has been the single thing in my life which has been consistent. It has always been there and perhaps as I faced some curveballs this Fall, so it was again. Everyone needs something to be there when life gets tricky. For some it is religion, others family or music. For me it has been education and learning. I know this post is quite personal but I believe that in order to truly reflect you have to be honest and open and so I write what I feel. I really don’t think anyone reads anyway!

To all of you who I have learned from this term, thanks. I am sure you have your curveballs too and I hope that you hit a few home runs off yours. Keep swinging.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”


Thanks for reading it this far. A

School Evaluation Summary

I thoroughly enjoyed this activity, although I did find it hard to complete – in an emotional sense. I used staff in school to give me feedback for certain aspects and read through policies and documentation. My personal involvement with technology in the school and passion for the subject made me wonder if I could be objective. I was worried that I would be too harsh on the school – I tend to be tough on myself and thought I might project that onto the summary. As a result, I tried to base everything on discussion, documentation, and evidence that I have had from my own class visits. I hope I did a good job. I think I did.

After my first reading of the Maturity Model Benchmarks, my gut reaction was that our school was at the lowest level –  Emergent. By the time I had worked through the benchmarks fully, I was pleased to find that in my evaluation, we were ahead of that, we are actually at an Islands stage. While we have a lot of work to do, we have made good progress in the last 5 years. The process of evaluation was actually cathartic and reassuring. I was not really surprised by anything as such. For me it was more a case of discovery. Where are we and what do we need to do next?

The school has some amazing opportunities ahead of it. Willing staff, new schools in the group to lease with, new leaders in role and a supportive and well-informed parent body. I am optimistic that by using the benchmarks as one of our guiding tools we can move our school forward and embrace technology to support and drive our student’s learning.

A challenging and personal activity which has left me with a positive feeling and clearer direction.

Here is a link to my evaluation. I have set it so that BoiseState email is required for login for confidentialty reasons.


This is a link to my evaluation summary sheet.

Tech Trends in Education. It’s not a game. . . except when it is.

macrae gamelab

This activity was consuming! I make no apology for getting excited or enthusiastic. I hope that my reflections engage you in some way. If my excitement and hyperbole are too much, please forgive me.

First of all, I read the  2014 The Horizon Report – several times. Barbara was correct; this will become one of my favorite pieces of reading. I was not sure where to start because there were many aspects which interested me, so I decided to go with my gut. Gaming in education. Over the last 10 years I have experimented in a haphazard way with games in education. Never really taking anything to an interactive level, what I have done is use games with children as a starting point for traditional learning. For example, using Myst to help with creative writing. My efforts in the last few years have been less and less though, and I saw this activity as an opportunity to further my knowledge, develop new skills and reignite something that I know in my heart works.

I explored Idaho Teen Game Lab which was fantastic. This online virtual camp for teens learning how to build games utilizes the Framework of 3D Game Lab and so I went there to explore the concept of quest based learning. My first late night led me to the conclusion that there would be a lot more to learn. I also concluded that in order to really add depth to my understanding in this area, my artifact would have to be more than a document, lesson plan or Prezi

I read the rest of the articles in the report and then tried to really reflect on what I should create. I came to the conclusion that to wax lyrical about the benefits of games in education without being a player was disingenuous. So how could I play? I decided that I would sign up for and create an account using 3D Game Lab. I had no idea that its origins were in Boise State until I read the website. That hometown link only solidified my desire to participate, so I signed up for an educator account.

Over the next week, I completed 13 ‘quests’ which were designed to explain how to go about creating and designing learning experiences with the system. After about 20 minutes, I decided that my artifact would have to be a Quest.

I decided to create a simple quest on the topic of game based learning. In order to to this I had to successfully complete quests which unlocked certain tools for me. I then collected some resources together and set about making a quest of my own.

My first attempt is pretty simple and basic. Aimed at teachers like myself who are brand new to the topic, the activity requires that the participant watches a video and explores 3 different websites in order to create a reflective piece of work which can be in any form. I was attempting to use Universal Design for Education (UDL) principles for the assignment aspect. The reflections can be completed in any way that can be shared with a url.

The player must submit their response to me and will earn a number of XP (experience points) for submitting. I created badges, awards and achievements for players. It has been consuming, and the learning curve is quite steep. However, I see this quest as something more than just an artifact for the course. It is not something I have created, but a seed I have sown. It will grow and develop. At the moment I have a group with no participants and one little quest. My goal is by the end of December to have a group established for pupils in our school to support their literacy and maths. It might be 3 or 4 pupils or it could grow to many more. Maybe someone who reads this will join the groups and complete the quest!

I have learned the following things.

  • This is a path I will travel further down
  • This is not a fad and affords great opportunities for learners to lead their own learning and engage.
  • I have a lot more to learn, and in this case learning by doing is important.
  • I don’t think it is possible to create effective game based learning experiences unless you can think like a player which means be a player.

I come away with a feeling similar to the one I had while researching flipped classrooms for my EdTeach 543 class which was that, it is not about flipping the classroom, it is about flipping the learning to achieve a better learning experience. With game based learning, it is not about just using a game to deliver the same old content in a new way, it is about creating an experience where the student has deeper learning experiences.

I was not sure how to share or demonstrate my artifact, so I have created a google slideshow with screenshots of my journey through 3D Game Lab and the quest that I created. That way I have evidence for those who do not have an account.

If you want to sign up to 3D Gamelab – my name is mrmac and you can request to join the group – Pilot Group 1

Here is a link to the slideshow.

I hope that someone joins in!















APA and an Annotated Bibliography

Our learning this week has been focused on APA referencing – creating an annotated bibliography. I have been learning or I should say, re-learning how to properly cite a resource. It has been many years since I have tackled an activity such as this and at Edinburgh University we used MLA or Harvard. My first reaction was one of frustration that there are so many different ways. I found myself asking, why can there not just be one system?

I moved on from that frustration though and took part in the google hangout with Dr Schroeder. It was helpful and reassuring that I was on the correct path and wasn’t too far out of my depth . . . Until about 5 minutes ago. Looking over my assignment for a final time, I re-read the instructions and noticed that I had probably taken the wrong path completely. The topic which I chose was the flipped classroom – or as I understand it now to be – flipped learning.

The mistake that I have made is in the type of article which I have chosen to review. I did not identify only studies but articles as well. If the focus of the task is to learn how to use and recognize APA style for citations and create an annotated bibliography, then I have certainly done that. I have reviewed each article in three parts as per the guidelines. However, my choice of articles might not be entirely correct. We learn by making mistakes and so my last minute anxiety about turning in my assignment will either be ill-founded or a great learning point.

I have learned more about the topic of my choosing which will directly impact my teaching. I have developed new knowledge on how to create, save, check and cross reference a citation, so I am happy. I will be annoyed at myself if I have misinterpreted the activity but happy to have learned so much, and most importantly more careful going forward.

This is a link to my Annotated Bibliography.

RSS in Education

This week I learned that RSS was one of the biggest gaps which I had in my knowledge and skill set. I was vaguely aware of what RSS was when we began but had never used it and did not consider it something I could use with my pupils. Once again, this course has led me to re-evaluate my preconceived ideas about an aspect of technology.

I knew that RSS involved the feeding of information directly to me from different sources but did not know how it worked and had never tried using it professionally or personally. I followed the instructions we were given, reading up on the topic and quickly set up an account on Feedly for this course and another one on Flipboard for my personal interest. I wanted to try two different services so that I could compare their differences and effectiveness. Both were easy to set up and very intuitive.

I have enjoyed using Twitter as a source of professional development for about a year now but one of my biggest frustrations  has been how much information there is. There is no real selection process and as a result I can sometimes feel overloaded with information. That is where I see one of the main benefits of RSS. It can enable me to be more selective about the sources I choose to ‘feed’ me information. I have been reading all week and have enjoyed the blog posts from my classmates – using RSS has made their work more accessible and easier to find.

In planning a lesson, I decided that two things were important to me. Firstly, that I planned a lesson which I could actually teach to my 5th grade class and secondly, that the lesson would be about using RSS. I am a big believer that if I can use the technology then my pupils can as well. Therefore, I have planned a lesson that I will teach and which will fit into our current curriculum. Each pupil will be able to sign into Feedly using their Evernote account and will learn about RSS and how to use it to help them collate information from sources which have been approved.  (Because of their age and school policies, prescreened websites will be provided for them to select from)

Essentially they will be learning the same as I did. I am pretty confident that none of them currently use RSS feeds so the topic will be new. In my lesson plan there are links to documents which I have started but will populate with content over the next two weeks. I am excited to share this with my pupils and look forward to finding out if it works like I think it will. I hope so.


My Lesson plan

Digital Divide / Digital Inequality

Over the last two weeks we have been investigating Digital Inequality and I have found it to be both fascinating and enlightening.  By creating a presentation in a way I have never done before I have been really challenged and outside my comfort zone. I am usually a confident and comfortable speaker, I have spoken in front of many people many times but tonight I realized that it has been a long time since I listened to myself! It was a challenge to get my recording on VoiceThreads exactly the way I wanted it.

In trying to apply what I learned about presentations, I really focused on keeping my slides clean and tried to include minimal writing on the screen. I thought far more about word placement and images than ever before. I wanted the message to be carried in what I said and not just in what I put on the screen.  I stayed well clear of special effects and transitions, which was something which I read before I began. I did try to add some tonality to my voice and make sure I didn’t sound too monotone. It was hard. I focused on keeping the images to a minimum – they were really only used to fill white space and provide simple visual links to what I was talking about. I used an online flat icon generator to make the pictures specific to my purpose. http://flaticons.net

I learned about the difference between Digital Divide and Digital Inequality and I am fascinated to see what happens next… We are at a point in time when the pace of change is so significant that it is almost impossible to predict what will happen. Will the ‘have nots’ catch up and eliminate the digital divide, or will digital inequality become more significant? I think they way people learn is changing and my hope is that those who have access will drive themselves and their own learning .

As I think about what I have learned, I know that I can impact the learning that takes place  in our school. I hope that I can address the issues which were identified by staff in a timely manner. Knowledge is important but how I apply it is more important. Yesterday I send out invites to all staff to participate in a skills audit and attend a drop in session next week on Diigo and Glogster.

Someone once described a ‘good’ teacher to me as someone who is constantly dissatisfied with their own performance. I hope that makes me a good teacher. I am never really happy with what I create or make. In this case, I think my presentation slides were better than the accompanying voiceover. I wrote notes and a script but not enough of a script. Next time I would write significantly more and rehearse in front of some captive listener, not just myself. When recording a voiceover, a script is good. A good script is even better.

I also submitted my presentation without checking that I had made reference to the AECT code of ethics. An oversight down to bad planning.  I believe that a number of aspects of the code are being infringed in our school, in particular Section 1.2, 1.3 and 1.7.

Overall, I am happy because I helped to identify real issues  and thought of real solutions which will hopefully help to move our school forward.

Here is a link to my VoiceThread presentation.




Code of Professional Ethics in Educational Technology

Wow – this was a module which really made me realize that I have so much to learn.  This module had us reading about and learning from the AECT Code of Professional Ethics to further our understanding of just how important professional ethics are.  To be honest, when I started  I rather over confidently thought that I knew what it would mean.  I was very wrong.  Being wrong is good though – I am always harping on at my pupils that making mistakes is learning.

The role of professional ethics is both different and more important that I thought – not just because it provides a framework  but because it helps to define our profession.  Not something that I had really given any thought to at all.  I had to read the chapter a few times to figure out what I wanted to get from it. The historical aspect of the development of AECT and the code was interesting and relevant in terms of context .  However, I engaged more as the chapter moved on to talk about current thinking and the future.  The rapid changes in society are mirrored by the changes in technology. They are linked in so many ways.  For a profession to remain relevant and consistent, codes and guidelines are important. They have to be living and changing guidelines in order to respond to changes we cannot foresee.

I believed that ethics was all about doing the ‘right’ thing, which to a certain extent it is. What I have learned is that there are so many complex layers to this topic – there is no simple discussion to be had.  The distinction made between ethics and professional ethics has made me reflect on how as an educator I can use the AECT guidelines to not only troubleshoot in my school but help to define both myself as a professional and my role in educational technology. I think that reading guidelines and making an attempt to adopt and reflect on them as part of my practice will make me a better person and contribute to the greater professional identity of Educational Technology.

I am glad we tackled this module. It made me think, made me wrong, I had to struggle. I have not written a ‘proper’ paper in many years. I’m going to bed happy though.

Here is a link to my paper, I hope it all makes sense.