Author Archives: John

PYP Key Concept: Form

Young children like to sort. They’ll do it on their own based on myriad
of qualities subjective, objective, and fantastical. When asked to sort for
a functional reason, such as testing and sorting colored markers for color
and how well they work, the activity can go on for hours. Asked to do it
for inquiry and again there seems to be a bottomless well of ideas and
criteria on the activity. Sorting comes intuitively and naturally to most.
We are, on the whole, naturally observant of form.

The fun goes deeper when subtle differences are seen and leading questions
go to why and what for. The shared learned vocabulary is deep as well –
each participant shares and brings in new words and concepts in verbalizing
the similarities, differences, and patterns they see. Qualities are
discussed; preferences announced, sides taken and opinions and fact
delineated upon its form.

Patterns seen in similar objects, or those which repeat in one, are grist
for the inquiring mind. Do the patterns match the algorithm definitively or
on occasion? Have we seen this pattern anywhere else? Can you create this
pattern using numbers? Does the pattern help it to survive?

Some forms are so obsequious to their use we hardly give it a second
thought and other forms are a mystery to their purpose. The latter can
perhaps lead to more immediate interest, but the close observation of
something which so wonderfully combines form and function can lead to great
explorations as well.

I use the key concept of form on my own investigations, frequently when I
work with children, and it’s difficult to avoid across all disciplines.

503 Words on the Transformation of an Educational Technologist

If you asked me last year what kind of an educator I was, what learning theory I subscribed most closely to, how you and I were going to frame our lessons together, I would have answered easily: “I am a Constructivist.” Ask me the question again today and I wouldn’t be so definite in my answer. I would ask back, “What’s our learning objective, what are we teaching, who are we teaching, and how will we know that we’ve been successful?” Somewhere, very likely, within that reflection we would offer our learners a chance to “mess about” and to come up with or reinvent their own solutions or rediscover well-trodden territories that they now call their own. We would allow for a wholly constructivist approach to our tasks, but we would, along the way, be using aspects of Behaviorism, Instructionalism, and Cognitivism to reach and reflect upon our objectives.

Within educational technology I looked at behavioristic methods critically, but I was using poor criteria. I had become over-sensitive to what I automatically believed were the less attractive aspects of learning applications – the fireworks, the badges, the “bells and whistles,” trying to ignore the clear fact that the students enjoyed them and had purpose. I saw it as a weakness in the program. Now I’m not so quick to judge. Yes, there are ways to incorporate behaviorism with more finesse, but now I am looking at the content and pedagogy more closely to determine whether the technology is appropriate for the objectives at hand. Previously, having been a strict constructivist, I would have looked at instructivists too critically, but now with an educational technologist’s view I see many good resources that are essentially well crafted lecture. This year I take on the mind-set of a cognitivist to frame my reaction toward my students’ thinking more than I did – to think more deeply about individuation, load, and style.

Within all of this rearranging and incorporation of new ways of approaching learning, teaching, and technology, I learned something new despite the fact that it surrounded me at every turn – Connectivism. Thinking about education and technology as a connectivist redefined and transformed me as an educational technologist. Thinking in this way helped me to see how enormous applications such as Google’s G-Suite for Education allows community to connect in the smallest way to the broadest. That smaller applications, such as Front Porch Forum, connects community together at a local level in small and broad ways as well, and how it’s possible to connect people with seemingly disparate culture and country, who share a common interest, using translation, email, video, and ways not yet invented, to connect with meaning.

And of course, as with most good learning, I understand how little I do know – which is both humbling and exciting, and makes me both hopeful and anxious as to how I will find my way to further my career helping others to find their own way through this vital aspect of teaching and learning.


Just came across this article in the Irish Times about what happens when you combine graphene and silly putty and use it as a sensor. The synergism is pretty impressive – combining this with Arduino or a micro processor designed with the material in mind could make a very interesting toy/educational programming tool.

Jonathan Coleman holding a piece of G-Putty while his son Oisin holds a piece of Silly Putty. Photograph: Naoise Culhane.

Past, Present, and Future

The following is in response to a task I received asking for two experiences I had with educational technology in the past, one in the present, and one possible future scenario:

Fourth Grade Presentation
Technology: Tape recorder, stock photo slides, and carousel slide projector
Topic: Africa
Method: Describe stock photo slides on tape using my script. Say, “please advance to the next slide” as opposed to using a tone for some reason I can’t explain.

This was an imitation of other presentation tools that were common at the time and I wanted to make one myself. I look back on it with a little embarrassment, not that it wasn’t that good or bad, but a (female) friend who I admired made fun of me about it and I associate that with this project.

I learned how to put together media to inform and likely learned things about Africa I didn’t know before.

High School Sophomore
Year: 1975
Technology: DEC Model 33 ASR Teletype Computer
Topic: Basic BASIC
Method: Free exploration with text and tutor.

I lived in a wealthy town outside of Boston. We had all the toys. DEC may have donated the machine. It was my first opportunity to play with a computer and I liked it. As I look back I think it was one of the few times in high school that I felt pretty smart about something. If my personal/family life at that point hadn’t been so chaotic I may well have explored this further and been more comfortable using computers in college. I remember there being a key marked “X” with an up arrow next to it. Somehow I impressed my teacher that I figured out what it did (created an exponent) and he told me so. Later, in 1986, I used the first computer that really interested me and became a self-taught user.

I learned to use a computer in a non-threatening constructive way. Perhaps that carried over into my educational future. As an aside, both of these stories, boiled to their essence, reiterate the importance of people being nice to each other in school. It makes a difference.

Graduate Student
Year: 2016
Technology: WordPress 4.6
Topic: Personal Professional Development
Method: Reflection of learning, curating of resources, sharing information, and promotion of self as technology educator.

Throughout 2016 I have been working on learning how to use WordPress well. I first used it solely as a place to hold some of my assignments and blog posts and then I started finding ways to use it more fully. In the past weeks I have brought together two separate WP sites and am hosting one on my own domain. It has been a remarkable experience for a few reasons. I now can create a website without using an HTML editor, but can still use some of my html and css skills and can easily recreate what I have done for someone else in a style of their own choosing. I’m also pleased with the inherent review of all the work I’ve done this year. Categorizing the work, uploading videos and graphics, and documenting my processes has acted as a personal summative assessment of the work I’ve done. The site that I created is quite representative and I feel good about sharing it to further my professional standing and keep track of my resources.

Father of Graduate Student
Year: 2028
Technology: VR v.6 & HaloClass v.2.1
Topic: Dairy Herd Management – Dairy Genetics and Economic Analysis
Method: Biweekly class meets online using wholly representative avatars in a simulated classroom environment.

My daughter is attending a graduate program in which she collaborates with all of her classmates, all from agricultural schools around the world chosen for their specific ability and interest. They meet on a regular basis, twice a week, in a simulated classroom. All of the tools needed are at hand virtually and are available in both old school VR v.6 and in holographic 3D using HaloClass v.2.2. The term blended classroom has become antiquated. My daughter occasionally asks questions of what it was like to go to a graduate school in which one traveled, met face to face, and used something, embarrassingly enough, called Moodle and then laughs.

Makerspace – Gender and “Ability”

Coincidentally, I was given two different assignments in two different classes and they merged:

Caleb was showing a friend’s makerspace and Will asked us to take on a theoretical instructional design project incorporating makerspace using the Dick and Carey model.

Jaymes Dec at the Marymount School for Girls in New York City:

This was the theoretical:

“For this case, small school (K-12 or higher ed – you decide). 25 teachers (1 of which is an Ed Tech Specialist), 8 admin, 250 students. Admin wants to use a tech grant to jump on adopting this VR technology into the school’s makerspace. The problem is, the makerspace has not been well defined and is lightly used. There is no real ownership. Additionally, admin wants to make sure this device is not just a novelty. They believe that if it was used properly, students would be able to effective use the device to improve their writing, math and science skills. Your charge is to develop an implementation plan for your school that captures your administration’s excitement about VR and its relevance in education.”

Adding to the coincidence is that I’ve been thinking about gender issues in the tech ed arena again, and wonder if we, as a group working on the case study, should have added anything to explicitly address issues related to inequality in tech. In the video above Caleb’s friend, Jaymes Dec, made a point about the students in one winning project saying, “They’re great kids, but academically…” which is also a type of bias that teachers in the tech ed need to stay aware of. It’s unclear what his thinking was completely, but essentially I believe his point is that makerspaces should be open and welcoming in every way possible.

Beyond creating a level playing for all genders in technology education and business is also the issue of neurodiversity and what people with talent and challenge bring to the digital and maker world and how to do that in equitable and encouraging fashion. There seems to be so much room for so many different types of people in this space and as an educator its becoming increasingly clear how important it is for me to explore these issues more deeply and not wonder whether I should be inclusive after the fact.

Educational Design Models

I have taken the liberty to ‘lift’ the definitions and one resource link of the educational design models that my classmates have provided in our recent assignment. It’s not a complete list of the work done as some disinterested me or were not clarified well.

Action Learning uses movement to improve learning, memory retention and retrieval.

Action learning is an extension of kinesthetic learning.

The idea is by engaging the whole body you can engage the whole brain.

Situated Learning

Learning is situated in the activity in which it takes place. Learning is doing.

An instructional approach developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in the early 1990s, and follows the works of Lev Vygotsky, John Dewey, and J. G. Greeno who claims that students are more inclined to learn by actively participating in the learning experience.

Distributed Learning is the application of a multimedia approach to instruction.  In a Distributed learning environment, students are exposed to distance-learning, web-based instruction, flipped classroom experiences, videoconferencing in addition to direct instruction.

Microworlds are learning spaces that enable students to explore a concept or an idea. Ideally a microworld will be easy to understand or manipulate and this simplicity will allow growth and reinforce the concepts that are being taught by giving the students freedom explore the given concept within the boundaries of the microworld or simulation.

Problem Based Learning

Students learn by the experience of solving a problem. Other skills can be developed along with solving the initial problem. Also, there is often no predefined solution.

Problem-based learning promotes learning through the process of inquiry.

Inquiry Based Learning is a constructivist approach to learning facilitated by a leader. It is natural for people to ask questions about the world around them to make meaning and IBL takes advantage by actively involving the student in their own learning. Through exploration and reflection new knowledge is gained and that knowledge, discovered or rediscovered, is retained and holds greater value.

Discovery Learning is a method of inquiry-based instruction. It is a constructivist based approach to education that is supported by the work of learning theorists and psychologists Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and Seymour Papert.

Collaborative Learning


Instructional Video

Created with Adobe Premiere:


The sun came out today and I’m glad. It really does make everything here look so much better.

This is all pretty rough – I need titles and better ‘cutting’ and a little more material – I want to do at least one more onion shoot – I was on my way when the card got full and I lost my sun.

I don’t like most of the music I hear with many instructional videos, but I think that it needs some. My son wrote the piece a long time ago. Please comment on music and all else. Don’t be afraid to ‘cut deep.’ Thanks…

Side by side – without sun and with:

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-7-45-07-pm   screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-7-48-12-pm

No Sun: