May 12, 2015

Educational Technology Decision-Making: Technology Acquisition for 746,000 Ontario Students

I've had several requests to post the slides from my M.Ed. thesis defense and recent presentation at CONNECT 2015: Canada's Learning and Technology Conference - and I am happy to oblige. In addition, I've added some audio commentary to explain some of the key areas of my research study in greater depth. Feel free to comment or connect with me if you would like to discuss this study further!

Abstract: This study explores the technology procurement process in Ontario’s publicly funded school districts to determine if it aligned with relevant research, grounded in best practices, and enhances student learning. Using a qualitative approach, 10 senior leaders (i.e., chief information officers, superintendents, etc.) were interviewed to reveal the most important factors driving technology acquisition, governance procedures, and assessment measures utilized by school districts in their implementation of educational technology. The data were transcribed and submitted to “Computer-assisted NCT analysis” (Friese, 2014). The findings show that senior leaders are making acquisitions that are not aligned with current scholarship, that districts struggle to use data-driven decision-making to support the governance of educational technology spending, and that districts do not have effective assessment measures in place to determine the efficacy of a purchased technology. The study is meant to serve as an informative resource for senior leaders and presents research-validated approaches to technology procurement.

April 26, 2015

National Technology and Social Science Conference Presentation

Now that I've had some time to relax after completing my M.Ed. at Brock University, I thought I'd share with you my presentation from the 2015 National Technology and Social Science Conference from earlier this month. My presentation entitled, "The Importance of Involving Teachers in District Technology Decision-Making" presented elements of my master's thesis and the existing body of research that indicates the positive impact teacher involvement can have on technology acquisition and student learning. While the lighting in the conference room was quite dim, hopefully the audio comes through for you. Enjoy!

CCGSE Canadian Graduate Student of the Month

Happy to have been highlighted as the Canadian Graduate Student of the Month for April by the CCGSE (The Canadian Committee of Graduate Students in Education). Full link to the article below.

February 23, 2015

2015: The Year of the IT Leader in Education

A new article from EdTech Magazine recently came across my desk entitled "Campus IT Leadership Must Break Down Traditional Silos." Although the article dealt mainly with practices in Higher Ed, I think the sentiment can be extended to K-12. Through my Master's research I have uncovered that in an age where access to educational technology is essential (look no further than the Ontario Ministry of Education's $150 million commitment to school districts), the role of IT staff needs to shift.

Traditionally, the role of IT in large organizations (like Ontario's publicly funded school districts) has been to maintain control, protect information, and assume responsibility for updating/repairing hardware and software. It was work that was primarily done in the shadows/background that went largely unnoticed by stakeholders. In fact, if I think back to my elementary school days I vaguely remember an IT technician coming in occasionally to work on the computer lab or on equipment throughout the school. They were merely the last second assumed safety net that was brought to the light to save the day and returned to the shadows when no longer needed. In 2015, that will need to change.

The integration of educational technology into the learning environment has not been a smooth transition. Blunders like compromises in private data and the acquisition of mismatched technologies are becoming increasingly common in K-12 education. Clearly effective technology implementation requires meaningful collaboration between IT and academic partners to occur. In my opinion, a large amount of the chaos that surrounds technology implementation has to deal with a lack of communication between IT and teaching/support staff. Both sides tend to ignore the roles one another plays in the educational environment. To bridge this gap, I have listed 3 ways in which school districts can foster constructive interactions between IT and educators.

1. Respect the challenges one another faces

A common complaint I hear from both sides is that the other "doesn't understand what we need to do on our end." In a lot of ways that is true.

Some teachers don't consider the fact that the technology application they prefer to use in their class may compromise student data. Many don't know the amount of resources wasted on IT staff having to handle password resets for staff email accounts is staggering. Certainly most don't know the sheer number of attacks a school district's wireless network receives on a daily basis and ways they leave the board susceptible. The list goes on and on...

However, the same can be said for IT. How many technicians understand that being able to use a technology proficiently and being able to teach a group of 30+ students with a technology are two different things? Some may not realize that the quality of professional development teachers receive is often times inadequate and does not leave them with a great grasp of how to use a particular device. Do IT staff understand that just because a particular technology may be easy to manage at a district-level and has high repairability/durability that it may not meet the pedagogical/student learning needs of a classroom?

Both groups are in a great state of transition and both IT and academics need to be cognizant that their actions have implications that ripple throughout the organization.

2. Create more opportunities for meaningful collaboration

Meaningful collaboration requires more than just having an IT staff member sit in on a meeting. IT technicians need to be both visible and approachable for academic staff. These individuals have a great deal of knowledge about technology, privacy, device functionality, etc. and that knowledge often stays within the confines of IT. Those kinds of silos need to be broken down so that academic decisions related to technology are always made with the input of the IT professionals needed to support them.

3. Remember both sides are working towards the same goal

Finally, at a time where the focus in education happens to be on technology, IT/academic staff need to remember that the ultimate goal of the organization is to improve student learning. I understand that an IT technician may not realize that when he/she arrives to work (and it does not help that with many of the school boards in Ontario being massive in size, the needs of the organization tend to outweigh the needs of the students)...but this needs to change. IT staff need to be empowered to assume a greater role in the educational environment and really see the impact they can have on K-12 education. Educators cannot do this alone. They require the skills, problem-solving, and tenacity that many IT staff members possess.

That is why 2015 needs to be the year of the IT leader in education.

January 26, 2015

Brock News Feature

For those interested in learning more about the Social Innovation Research Associates Program (SIRAP), check out this feature article published in the Brock News! You can read the piece here.

December 15, 2014

Revisiting the 2014 Niagara Community Foundation Leaders Breakfast

A few weeks ago I had the great privilege of attending the 2014 Niagara Community Foundation Leaders Breakfast at the Holiday Inn and Suites Parkway Conference Centre in St. Catharines, ON. Myself, along with my colleges from the Social Innovation Research Associates Program (SIRAP) at Brock University were recognized (among several others) for our contributions to the 3rd annual Living in Niagara Report. The report, which is released every three years, offers a snapshot of quality of life in the Niagara region and was launched on November 25th.

I was charged with handling the data in the "Learning and Education" sector and had been working with Niagara Connects and community leaders over the course of the past year to gauge the quality of education in Niagara. It should be mentioned that Niagara Connects is the only organization in Canada compiling an integrative set of community indicators in a real time virtual document with a digital interactive feature. This provides an innovative outlet for community dialogue. It was incredible to see the report come together and the highly positive response from the community.

Niagara Connects Chair, Madelyn Law and myself
Photo Credit: Brittany Holyome
The event itself was attended by over 500 people, which included leaders from industry, academia, and the local and provincial governments. For those interested in learning more about the 2014 Living in Niagara Report, the entire 44-page document can be viewed or downloaded at

December 07, 2014

2015 National Technology and Social Science Conference

Viva las Vegas! Just received the news that my proposal for the 2015 National Technology and Social Science Conference has been accepted. The conference will take place at the historic Flamingo Hotel (movie site of Ocean's 11 and Viva Las Vegas) from March 29-31, 2015 and features expanded sessions dealing with the use of technology in the classroom. My presentation is entitled, "Teachers Know Best: The Importance of including Teachers in District Technology Decision-Making." This session is rooted in the preliminary findings from my Master's thesis and the existing body of research that indicates the positive impact on student learning when teachers get to weigh in on technology acquisitions.

The National Social Science Association (NSSA) is a national interdisciplinary association that been in existence now for 33 years. The National Technology and Social Science Conference features presentations from professors and graduate students from all over North America and focuses on presentations dealing with research, teaching, and technology. All presentations are printed in the proceedings journal after the conference.

Hope to see you there!

October 25, 2014

Teacher Technology Adoption and the Philosophy of Fear

I'm so excited to share with you my first official academic publication! My article entitled, "Teacher Technology Adoption and the Philosophy of Fear," was recently published in the University of New Brunswick's, Antistasis journal.

The piece explores the resistance to using technology in the classroom and the systemic philosophy of fear that isolates us from the consequences of true technological advancement. For my readers and friends in both higher education and K-12, I strongly encourage you to share my reasoning/rationale with your colleagues and peers. I believe this piece offers a unique perspective on why we have become so reluctant to transform education and are merely content with safety and tradition. For some educators, Blackline Masters and chalkboards are what they know. Technology in many ways is what they do not. However, once one gains an understanding of the philosophical and social forces that shape how we act towards technology, we can prevail. This article seeks to address that need.

Via David Sipress
Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Roger Saul (University of New Brunswick), Dr. Theodore Christou (Queen's University), and Dr. Judy Wearing (Queen's University) for all their help in getting this piece to its highest level of quality. It was a pleasure learning from all three of you. Below is what Guest Editor, Dr. Wearing wrote about the piece. Enjoy!

"Above and beyond preoccupations with the relevance of philosophy to education, other essays in this issue provide an inkling of the span of contributions modern philosophy can, and does, make to education. Ribeiro's Teacher technology adoption and the philosophy of fear examines the current status of technology in the classroom in relation to historic information revolutions through a philosophical lens. Philosophy also provides grease to sooth the concerns." - Dr. Judy Wearing, Guest Editor

Review: 3 Key Advantages to Using ATLAS.ti for Literature Reviews

In beginning to tackle my Master's thesis on educational technology acquisition in Ontario's publicly-funded school districts, I knew I wanted to use a software program to handle my data as opposed to hovering over stacks of paper. This preference extended beyond just manipulating the data for coding purposes, but also as a means of staying organized and efficient. I went out into the market and found a few strong candidates, but ATLAS.ti stood head and shoulders above the competition. As a qualitative data analysis tool, ATLAS.ti consolidates large volumes of documents and can support multi-method, multi-user projects across space and time. The product is both available for Mac OS X and Windows machines and student licenses begin at approx. US $35 for a 6 month (semester) license or US $65 for a 2-year license (which I opted for). There is also an accompanying iPad/Android app (which I have yet to find a real use for), and (free) online training webinars that run frequently. Nonetheless, this is definitely the most competitive price going for a software of this capability. But does it live up to the hype? 

While I have yet to use it for formal data analysis, I have used the software extensively to conduct my literature review. It's highly functional and easy to use. This product offers some key features that I strongly urge fellow grad students to take advantage of:

1) Allows you to import text in PDF (native), Doc, Docx, Txt, Rtf formats, images (jpg and png), audio, video and provides you with a Document (Group) Manager to organize these uploads. This is incredibly useful when you are working with a conceptual framework that is multi-faceted and requires an examination of different themes/theories/topics. 

Coding video and audio snippets via ATLAS.ti
2) Once uploaded, specific lines of text can be highlighted and coded with your cursor and are automatically exported to your Quotation Manager. It is here where you can specifically see the different themes or categories present in a single document and the amount of quotations you have for each code. Simple things like keeping track of how many documents contain a certain code related to your research would be painstakingly difficult if you were working exclusively in paper format. 

3) Finally, ATLAS.ti's best feature is its ability to search for text within previously highlighted codes. Sometimes researchers are left with codes and groups in the hundreds and the search for information you previously were interested in becomes that much harder. Running this software eliminates time that would have previously been spent shuffling through papers and trying to make out your own handwriting. Furthermore, Memo and Note features allow the researcher to document their thoughts as soon as they emerge (i.e. what they gained from reading the source and/or what they intend do with it).

Coding text and images simultaneously via ATLAS.ti
It may not work for some, but ATLAS.ti definitely works for me. The element of organization and structure it provides is much needed as I tend to work on-the-fly. The days of figuring out what I scribbled in the margin of a photocopied article riddled with coffee spills are finally over. For my colleagues in academia, I highly recommend you give it a whirl (even through the free trial) and see if it improves the logistics and organization required to carry out your studies.

*Stay tuned later in the month for an analysis of the software's data analysis capabilities!

September 18, 2014

Review: Unlocking the Potential of Vidopop in the Classroom

Sorry I've been a bit absent from the blogosphere as of late. I've been incredibly busy working on my Master's thesis, which for the moment, is going really well. I've also been looking for inspiration to strike before I delved into writing a new post. That moment came the other day when my adviser, Dr. Camille Rutherford showed me an app that could have huge potential in classrooms all around the world. Here is Vidopop...

What is it?
Billing itself as the best way to collaborate and communicate in a group through mobile video, Vidopop is a video note and messaging app that allows users to record and send videos of ANY size to anyone and any app instantly. From a classroom perspective this app can facilitate group work at a distance, deliver feedback from teachers to students, and be used to create lessons and presentations with ease. The application is free and comes loaded with 10GB of storage. Additional storage comes at a price ($5 a month for up to 100GB, $40 a month for up to 1TB).

How does it work?
Teachers can download the app through the App Store or Google Play, sync their contacts, and away you go. Vidopop also integrates natively with some of your favorite tools like Box, Evernote, etc. You can also embed links of your videos into other tools or social media platforms for viewers to watch. But here's the best part: viewers do not have to have the app downloaded to watch the video. If  a teacher wants to push out an introductory message to parents during the first week of school, they can view it on their iPads, Androids, desktops and many other devices at their convenience.

Impact on Student Learning?
Though teachers have always been overly cautious about the use of video in the classroom, BYOD is about to push the issue even further. Students are going to be enabled with a camera and video recorder every time they step into their classroom. Rather than fear that power, why not EMpower them? More often than not, new concepts and feedback are faster to explain through video rather than text. Students can film the materials they are studying, draw out equations, and 1000's of other activities that can now be documented and shared. Teachers will now have the ability to flip their classrooms with ease by pushing out video reminders, lessons, and other relevant information. The most important piece to me is that this can foster real collaboration between students and teachers inside and outside the classroom.

But will this have an impact on student success? According to the Dallas Independent School District it does. In a case study completed in 2013, two algebra classes were studied with one identified as a 'hybrid' class that received the majority of their instruction through educational technology and Web tools. Students were able to watch lessons through Vidopop, catch up on missed work at their convenience, and ask their peers questions about the lessons (through video), even at home. The results indicated that by the end of the semester, the hybrid class outperformed the traditional class by 19%. See the full study here.

Final thoughts... 
Just from the few times I've used it, I'm highly impressed by the ease-of-use of Vidopop and I predict a rapid expansion into the K-12 space over the next year. This Silicon Valley startup is on the rise and already generating a great deal of buzz. For those educators weary of using video in the classroom, I strongly recommend you give the app a quick download and Vidopop will take care of the rest. Your students will love it. Happy collaborating!