Monday, July 25, 2016

This blog post was first published by Larry Cuban at Schools That Integrate Technology: Silicon Valley | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:

As complex as it is for an individual teacher to integrate daily use of high-tech devices into routine classroom practices, technology integration at a school level is even more complex. A classroom teacher with 25-35 students can alter the structures of her classroom and create a culture of learning, achievement and mutual respect. Hard as that is, it is do-able. I and many others have profiled teachers who have created such classrooms.
Imagine, however, schools with 30 to 100 classrooms and getting all of those teachers to work together to create school-wide infrastructure and a learning, achieving, and respectful culture–across scores of classrooms that seamlessly integrates computers to achieve the school-site’s goals. A complex task with many moving parts that is fragile yet strong. It does happen but remains uncommon.
I have observed a few schools in Silicon Valley that have integrated new technologies across the entire school requiring teachers to teach lessons using particular hardware and software. These schools vary from one another but tout that they “personalize learning,” blend instruction, and differentiate their lessons to meet differences among students. Invariably, they say they use project-based instruction.  They have created both an infrastructure and culture that subordinates technology to the larger tasks of preparing children and youth to do well academically and socially, graduate, and enter college (and complete it) or enter a career directly.
Considering what I have observed in Silicon Valley, documented nationally in my studies, and retrieved from the research literature on such schools elsewhere in the U.S., what are the common features of such schools?
Here are eight different yet interacting moving parts that I believe has to go into any reform aimed at creating a high-achieving school using technology to prepare children and youth to enter a career or complete college (or both). Note, please, that what I have garnered from direct observation, interviews, and the literature is not a recipe that can be easily cooked and served. Listing features I have  identified is not an invitation to insert some or all of these into a formula for producing such schools near and far. These schools are rooted in their contexts and context matters.
These features are:
*Recruit and train teachers who have the subject matter knowledge and skills to work with students  before, during, and after the school day.
*Recruit and train school site leaders who have the expertise and skills to lead a school and be a pillow and sandpaper simultaneously with teachers, students, and parents.
*Students have access to non-academic subjects that cultivate the mind, heart, and sensibilities.
*Equip all students with the knowledge and skills not only to enter college,  persist through four years and get a bachelor’s degree but also have the wherewithal to enter a career immediately.
*Organize the school day, week, and month that provides students with sufficient time in and out of class to learn the prescribed material and core cognitive skills to master a subject, acquire the essential skills of planning and assessing their progress in each course they take, receive tutorial help when student skill levels are below and above par, and time for students to receive mentoring from teachers they trust.
*Build a culture of safety, learning, respect, and collaboration for both youth and adults.
*Create a decision-making process that is inclusive, self-critical, and strong enough to make further changes in all of the above.
*Do all of this efficiently within available resources.
Note the absence of new technologies in the features that I have listed. Why is that?
Simply because such schools containing these features have administrators and teacher who figure out when to use software to achieve desired outcomes, create an infrastructure to support staff in using new technologies, determine which new technologies efficiently advance students in reaching these goals, and create the conditions for easy, supported use of the hardware and software. Note, then, that computers and their software are subordinate to the overarching goals for students and adults in the school.
Summit schools, a charter network in Northern California, has been working and re-working a design containing these moving parts for nearly 15 years. Over that period, they have amended, deleted, and added program features as administrators and faculty learned what worked and what didn’t. The time span, the stability in staff, their awareness of context and shifting demographics all came into play as Summit leaders and faculty figured out what to do since 2003.
Over the past two months I have visited two of Summit’s seven charter schools in the Bay area and in those two schools have watched teachers across different academic subjects teach 90-minute lessons during what the schools call “project time.” I have also interviewed administrators.  Each school was part of a different district in Silicon Valley. While one of the schools had a separate building in its district well suited to its mission, scheduling, and space for students, the other school was located on a high school campus in another district where both students and teachers worked in a series of portable classrooms. Also each drew from different populations.*
The network of Summit charter schools has been written about often and positively (see hereherehere, and here). In all instances, these teachers I observed had integrated the software they had loaded onto students’ Chromebooks, the playlists of videos and links to articles for units that teachers created, and students’ self-assessment exercises into daily lessons with varying degrees of student engagement. The charter network claims that through theirPersonalized Learning Plan (also see here) teachers could give each student individual help while students negotiated their ways through academic content and skills. In the two schools, I observed students during 90-minute classes in different academic subjects working on teacher-chosen projects. Students were using their Chromebooks frequently to access PLP voluntarily and at teachers’ direction.
The cliched statement said over and over again by advocates of new technologies in schools: “It is not about technology, it is about learning,” captured what I saw. Overall aims for Summit students to acquire academic content, cognitive skills, “habits of success,” and the know-how allowing students to assess their own progress involved online work  before, during and after lessons. Clearly, the school did not have to use Chromebooks and extensive software to reach the schools’ overall goals and each student’s personal ones. The technology did enable, however, the process of learning to be more efficient, more timely, and  give real-time feedback to students.
The two Summit schools in very different contexts contained these features I listed above. While differences existed between the two schools in context and staffing, both have implemented these features as best they could. Creating and massaging these many features of the Summit Schools is no easy task. It is not done once; it is a process that is constantly monitored, assessed, and altered by site leaders and staff.  Thus, listing the essential features that mark such enterprises is not a blueprint for action; it is an after-the-fact synthesis of what I saw and not easily replicable for those who have dreams of “going to scale.” It is what emerged from such efforts over a long period of time and requires tender, loving care every day. The program is fragile and easily broken by inattention, changes in leadership and staff, and declining resources. May it continue to thrive.
*Diane Tavenner, a founding teacher at Summit Prep and director of Summit Schools Network and Chief Academic Officer, Adam Carter–also a founding teacher at Summit Prep–picked the two schools. In both schools, I interviewed the principals (called Executive Directors), and they suggested various teachers I should visit. Because of scheduling difficulties, I could not see all of those recommended to me. So in both schools, I reached out to other teachers, introduced myself and asked them if I could observe their classes.  The nine teachers who permitted me to spend a 90-minute block with them taught English, social studies, science, and math. For readers who wish to see my published observations, see posts for March 13, 2016, March 16, March 21, March 23, March 29, April 1, April 6, April 12, April 18.

Posted on Monday, July 25, 2016 by Ammar Merhbi

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Monday, July 11, 2016



Most tech giants (Google, Microsoft, Intel, Apple, HP…) are racing to contribute to the education domain by providing powerful free, mostly cloud based,  tools and resources, for students, teachers, schools, and universities. Most of them believe in education and the vast economic gains the world will reap when students are taught 21st century skills using technology to facilitate instruction and student created content. One of those leading tech giants is of course Google.

Google has entered the education domain years back but has only staunchly and gradually offered more tools and features when they started offering Google Apps for Education free for all educational institutions. Since then, Google has spent a lot of time and effort in developing tools to help students learn, educators facilitate, and schools lead into the 21st century learning paradigm.

Recently, and specifically in the ISTE 2016 convention, Google has updated and created new Google Tools that perhaps most educators are still not aware of. Here they are with no preference:

1. Google Expeditions

Bring your lessons to life with Google Expeditions. Cannot go on a school bus and explore the coral reef? No problem. Google Expeditions let your students immerse in a 3600  of virtual reality. Just imagine exploring coral reefs or the surface of Mars in an afternoon. With Expeditions, teachers can take students on immersive, virtual journeys. Google expeditions was offered for schools that apply for it in a pioneer program, but now it is available for everyone via its Google Expedition App. Teachers can add points of interest for students to explore during their virtual journey. The Google Expeditions can be 3D only with Google Cardboard however. You can also explore Google Expeditions Kits to further enhance student experiences. Teacher can build inquiry-based activities around Google expeditions before, during, and after the lesson.  Learn more about Google Expeditions and how to get started here.


2. Science Journal App

The Science Journal app allows you to gather data from the world around you., what we educators call “augmented reality”.  It uses sensors to measure your environment, like light and sound, so you can graph your data, record your experiments, and organize your questions and ideas. The key is to help students experiment, recreating the same experiment over and over using the same and variable conditions. Students use the app to record data and interpret results. Science Journal App was developed by Google to help students and teachers delve into their surroundings using inquiry-based approach. Teachers can set up driving questions to help students inquire. The app can be used in a lesson as part of a project based learning unit or as a standalone lesson. Google has also provided a Making with Science website that contains the App, activities, materials (if one wants to connect external hardware), and much more for teachers and students.


3. Google Arts and Culture

Google’s Arts and Culture Institute (There’s an App now) brings the world’s art to your fingertips. Let students discover artworks, collections and stories from all around the world like never before. Students get explore arts in museums around the world in virtual museum trips. Students can zoom in works of art close, real close, that a person with a naked eye present in the museum cannot. This will allow the teacher to guide students into questioning the techniques used for let’s say constructing a paint or unravel hidden icons. Student will have an all-museum view, inside and outside, they will also curate digital arts and exhibitions. In addition to arts, students can historic moments and world wonders. Go to t Google’s Arts and Culture Website to explore more.



4. Google Cast

Although not specifically a generic tool used for education, google cast lets you cast your favorite entertainment and apps from your phone, tablet or laptop right to your TV or speakers.For classroom use, the teacher or student can cast his screen to other tablets or phones using the Google Cast App. Go to Google Cast Website to Find out more.

5. Google Forms Quiz

I have published an earlier post on the new Google Forms Quiz here.

Posted on Monday, July 11, 2016 by Ammar Merhbi

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Finally, Google has added the Google Forms Quiz feature to its Google Forms. Now, instead of correcting students’ responses manually or use a script like Flubaroo, the Google Forms Quiz is now built in the Google Forms itself, and has so many great features that will make all teachers happy.

Here’s How to Create the Quiz

  1. Go to . Or go to your Google Drive then click New and then choose Forms
  2. From Google Forms Setting icon, click on Quizzes


3. Change the Form template to a quiz. Then select the options that you prefer. You can have the results directly displayed to students or you can postpone the results after you do a manual review. You can also choose what results students can see (Missed Questions, correct questions, or/and point values). IT is also important to note that you if you need students to have only one response they need to be logged in their google Apps account or Gmail account. You need to select this option from “General Settings”. Also, if you want to shuffle questions, you need to select it under the “Presentation” option.

quiz template

choose preference

4. Add your question and choices. Please note that Google Quiz only works with Multiple choice, checkbox, and list questions.


choose question

5. Choose the correct answers and set the point value by clicking on the “Answer Key”. Select the correct answers.

nswer key


select ansers

6. Select the Feedback for Correct and Incorrect Answers. You can add links to additional resources to help students modify their thinking.



Then click “Save”. Do not forget to click “add” once you add a link.


7. Click on the Eye icon to check how the form looks like for your students.


One thing google needs to add is the personalized answers to the incorrect choices, a feature found in Moodle that I highly appreciate. I think it is not too long before Google gradually turns Google Apps for Education full of LMSs features.

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2016 by Ammar Merhbi

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Gold fish with shark flipWith Moodle 3.1 release in May, Moodle has really improved in it updates. We all know the myriad of updates Moodle has been with in the past couple of years due to coping with the exponential explosion of new web features and LMSs vendors. The Moodle 3.1 release includes many new features and improvements of earlier features. See below a video list of Moodle 31. overview and video explanation of new as well as improved features.



New and Updated Feature Include:

For Teachers


For Administrators


For All Users


One particular new feature that Moodle 3.1 has included is the Competency Based Education (CBE) Module. This is a great move from Moodle Headquarters as the current trend of education is for competency based. In addition to  linking courses to Competencies that students need to meet, CBE module includes an educational plan, a great feature the helps personalizing the experiential factor of learning and supporting the learners’ metacognition. In a later post, I will discuss how CBE feature potential can be maximized.

Posted on Monday, June 27, 2016 by Ammar Merhbi

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

"The Rise of Private International Schools" has been the hype phrase in the education "Galaxy" in recent years. Certainly, parents and their kids are opting more for international schools, with the hope that they receive a world class education (if they can afford the tuition fees anyway). However, to ensure these international schools offer what they claim, they are periodically reviewed by accreditation agencies. Typically, a school has to undergo the accreditation process starting with a self study and ending with the official accreditation evaluation team. Eventually, the team submits an exit report after their visit (which typically lasts few days) whether the school is accredited of not.
But there’s on more add-on to the accreditation process that has gradually been in place for the past decade. The school accreditation agencies now, more than ever, focus on technology integration in schools, as they believe that students should use technology to research, solve problems, communicate, and create authentic materials. The future is technology, and the future is here. I do agree that student technology use is instrumental if they wish to live and compete in the workplace. Our lives now revolve more than ever around technology. However, the school accreditation agencies have regrettably focused on the wrong facet of technology integration. This in turn, generally, contributes in the schools' heedless purchase of tech tools and gadgets to impress and lure. 
I've worked with some school accreditation agencies, and all of them (in their review of a traditional brick and mortar school) focus on technology in the classroom, and to a less extent on technology in school, and even much overlooked is out of school technology integration . Some have even developed a standard (with indicators) for technology integration. Below is one criterion of a classroom observation form that all accreditation review team members have to fill out. 

The problem with this view is that the classroom setting is considered as the sole place to use technology, and so they constructed their classroom evaluations on it. In this particular accreditation agency, the average rating of classroom technology integration among 34,000 classrooms visited around the world is 1.21 out of 4, which is extremely low. But should we base the evaluation on tech integration on only classroom, or even school use? In fact, a bulk body of research now confirms that classroom technology has  a negative impact on student learning. The OECD report (the first large scale comparative study) on students, schools, and computers shows that students in tech rich schools perform the worst in reading and mathematics as compared to students in tech-average schools.

Students who use computers moderately at school tend to be somewhat more skilled in online reading than students who rarely use computers. But students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in reading, even after accounting for students’ background.
On average, in the past 10 years there has been no appreciable improvement in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that have invested heavily in information and communication technologies for education.

Three significant interpretations of the findings

The reason is perhaps two-fold : technology setting and technology use.
1- Tech use (in the classroom) minimizes human touch, which improves deep learning. It is really common sense. Why would one be with his peers and his teacher in one room if there is no frequent face-to-face interaction. Communicative tasks and assignments should be done in class.

2- Use of 20th century teaching with technology is obtrusive. This is the perpetual problem in all schools. From teachers to admin, you can only find a couple of teachers in any given school that really uses 21st century teaching practices with technology.

3- Pedagogies for using technology properly for student achievement are fledgling.
On the other hand, the US Ministry of Education found out that student use of technology outside of the classroom or school (online and blended learning modes) have resulted in great student improvements.

So, next time the external review team tries to assess your tech integration solely on school or classroom technology, make sure they know that technology integration is not only confined within the classroom walls. In fact, it shouldn’t be ,for one of the key features that technology brings is student personalized learning, which unconfined by time and space. And, next time your school tries to purchase those Interactive Whiteboards, caution them on the reality of tech in schools in terms of student achievement, or at least suggest that they need to be data-informed and know whether there is a real return of investment.

Posted on Saturday, January 16, 2016 by Ammar Merhbi

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015


“Did you check out that cool ClassDojo app? It lets you control your students and their behaviors”, “ I found a great hardware that I can add to my Tablet. I think I can find a way to use it in my classroom”, “ Hey, this tool I came across lets you take photos and add some cool interactive layers. I must fit it in one of my classes”. These are some of the talks you hear whilst sitting with teachers who are fascinated by the next big thing, excited with the  new cool tool, and they can’t wait to try it with their students (their guinea pigs).  What’s up with most of the 21-century teachers, those who are fascinated by technology, those techno-centric teachers? Why do they keep running after the first tool that appears, the first app that they download, and then they try to squeeze it in their lesson plans; whether it fits with the learning objectives or not. In fact, I have seen some teachers change their lesson plans altogether, and the learning objectives just to fit with the cool tool they would like to use. If you want proof, check out any two blogs on education and technology. I bet you that the one that updates the blog readers on new apps and tools get the much higher traffic and social media shares. The other blog that talks about how to help students learn through technology gets a much lower visitor traffic and shares. There are some exceptions of course.

Come on guys! Your are learning experts. Deep learning should be your top priority. I have seen it over and over again, every year, with so many teachers. I have rarely seen a teacher who starts with the learning target and learning activity type in mind, and then fit the right technology. It is always the other way round, with most teachers I meet or work with. They are always charmed by the novelty effect of technology. Their students too think it’s cool, but what about the result?  what about student achievement? What about learning? These are all kicked downstairs, so it seems; a bypass of trying a new technological tool.

The school administrations are not helping too. They are in the same boat with the tech-centric teachers. “We have installed interactive whiteboards in 50% of the classrooms, use them”, “We have bought great classroom projectors”, “We have subscribed all in x website, use it”, it never ends. I am really tired of hearing this everywhere, in schools and educational conferences.

Edtech vendors are also the culprits. They push so hard with their advertisements and marketing strategies, and biased research reports on how their edtech tool helped students increase their achievement in x school, or y university. That is just nonsense. No edtech tool alone can do it. Without proper alignment of technology with the learning objectives and school ecology, it won’t work. You are just deluding yourself that it works because what you see as “student engagement” you interpret as “student achievement”.

Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 by Ammar Merhbi

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015



During primary and early middle school years I was a typical, diligent student. I was not the top of my class but I did really well in school. I did well because I was expected to do well by the school, my teachers, my parents, and because of peer competition. However, by late middle school and high school, I began falling behind in most of my subjects, especially Math and Science. I did my best but I could not really “understand” the subjects taught. As the school years progressed, my academic achievement became worse, until by Grade 11 the school gave me a choice: either to continue with the school and repeat my Grade 11 or enroll in another school to promote to Grade 12. Like many other students,  I fell into the cracks of a factory-based school system that packages all students in a class by age and treats them as if they have the same learning pace, same learning preferences,  and same brain development (cognitive neuroscience now proves that our learning abilities develop at different rates). I was one of those who took his time to digest the lesson slowly, or take some time to ponder on a question asked by the teacher. I was one of those who think really well outside of a 5x4 m. cell  with other 29 students. And now, as an educator, I cannot but think of the many “Mes” who have a lot of potentials but fall into the cracks of the institutional schooling. Schools as we know it now were conceived and designed against how students learn. They were designed to produce people with standardized knowledge and skills (if any) to fit in the factory model. In addition, students’ learning abilities were, and still are, labeled based on their age not their cognitive abilities or skill development. I have had many peers during my school years and I have known many students who were not successful in this factory-based (institutional schooling) but then flourished in the real world. This is because in the real world they could take things at their own pace, could pick and choose things that they need to learn “just-in-time” and not “just-in-case”. They could personalize their learning out of the school. This means that schools, although they claim they have a positive impact on students (well they should or else all schools will close) they do hinder student learning because they operate against how students are born to learn

How Blended Learning Personalizes the Student Learning Experience

If this is the first time you hear of blended learning, or you have heard it before but you are not exactly sure what it is, blended learning first of all is not a technological tool (although it relies on technology). It is an instructional model (not a new one since it was used long ago before institutional school but did not have any name back then). It is not a technology-rich instruction, it is not about high-tech gadgets, and it is not interactive tools (as many vendors promise schools that their tools will deliver:except they do not deliver student achievement),

The latest definition of blended learning (since it is an evolving instructional model)  is defined by Christensen Institute as a formal education program in which a student learns :

(1) at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;

(2) at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;

(3) and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.


It is essential to note no. 3 above that the modalities between online and brick-and-,mortar should “provide an integrated learning experience”. Many schools and teachers miss on this bit of integrating the two modalities in such a way that they combine the best in the two worlds. By giving the students control over time, place, path/pace schools taps into how students are born to learn. Students can learn then not subdued by the class, teacher, and peer pressure but by how their cognitive processes develop. This is done by “mastery-based” learning. Think of it like an engaging game with levels (including badges and shields). Students will progress from one level to the next by mastering each level. They will then be issued credentials or acknowledgements that they have finished one level and are ready for the next one. This is different than the current model of teaching “ocean wide but an  inch deep” shallow learning. Blended learning if done right yields deep learning for all students.


Blended Learning Models Currently Used in Schools

There are currently four blended learning models being used in schools. This however does not mean that any school cannot come up with its own blended learning model. The field of blended learning is still evolving and any blended learning model can be added to the four currently used. In fact some schools have blended learning programs  that do not fall in the four blended learning models below as identified by Christensen Institute.

The majority of blended-learning programs resemble one of four models: Rotation, Flex, A La Carte, and Enriched Virtual. The Rotation model includes four sub-models: Station Rotation, Lab Rotation, Flipped Classroom, and Individual Rotation.

1. Rotation model — a course or subject in which students rotate on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion between learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning. Other modalities might include activities such as small-group or full-class instruction, group projects, individual tutoring, and pencil-and-paper assignments. The students learn mostly on the brick-and-mortar campus, except for any homework assignments.

a. Station Rotation — a course or subject in which students experience the Rotation model within a contained classroom or group of classrooms. The Station Rotation model differs from the Individual Rotation model because students rotate through all of the stations, not only those on their custom schedules.

b. Lab Rotation – a course or subject in which students rotate to a computer lab for the online-learning station.

c. Flipped Classroom – a course or subject in which students participate in online learning off-site in place of traditional homework and then attend the brick-and-mortar school for face-to-face, teacher-guided practice or projects. The primary delivery of content and instruction is online, which differentiates a Flipped Classroom from students who are merely doing homework practice online at night.

d. Individual Rotation – a course or subject in which each student has an individualized playlist and does not necessarily rotate to each available station or modality. An algorithm or teacher(s) sets individual student schedules.

2. Flex model — a course or subject in which online learning is the backbone of student learning, even if it directs students to offline activities at times. Students move on an individually customized, fluid schedule among learning modalities. The teacher of record is on-site, and students learn mostly on the brick-and-mortar campus, except for any homework assignments. The teacher of record or other adults provide face-to-face support on a flexible and adaptive as-needed basis through activities such as small-group instruction, group projects, and individual tutoring. Some implementations have substantial face-to-face support, whereas others have minimal support. For example, some Flex models may have face-to-face certified teachers who supplement the online learning on a daily basis, whereas others may provide little face-to-face enrichment. Still others may have different staffing combinations. These variations are useful modifiers to describe a particular Flex model.

3. A La Carte model — a course that a student takes entirely online to accompany other experiences that the student is having at a brick-and-mortar school or learning center. The teacher of record for the A La Carte course is the online teacher. Students may take the A La Carte course either on the brick-and-mortar campus or off-site. This differs from full-time online learning because it is not a whole-school experience. Students take some courses A La Carte and others face-to-face at a brick-and-mortar campus.

4. Enriched Virtual model — a course or subject in which students have required face-to-face learning sessions with their teacher of record and then are free to complete their remaining coursework remote from the face-to-face teacher. Online learning is the backbone of student learning when the students are located remotely. The same person generally serves as both the online and face-to-face teacher. Many Enriched Virtual programs began as full-time online schools and then developed blended programs to provide students with brick-and-mortar school experiences. The Enriched Virtual model differs from the Flipped Classroom because in Enriched Virtual programs, students seldom meet face-to-face with their teachers every weekday. It differs from a fully online course because face-to-face learning sessions are more than optional office hours or social events; they are required.




Whatever blended learning model you adopt or adapt should be heavily dependent on the school environment: school leadership, vision, faculty, students, parents, country et… Since blended learning is a formal program, faculty and school leadership should collaborate to put policies, allocated resources, set up support systems, professional development etc. so that the whole school moves in the blended learning direction.


Why Blend?

It is time that politicians, educational leaders, and parents realize that learning does not only happen within the school geographical location or only in the classroom. Breaking down the classroom walls is an essential factor in student achievement as it will contextualize student learning in real life. In addition, blended learning caters for unique student learning needs in terms of learning styles, pace, preferences, and cognitive development. To blend means to shift from one-size-fits-all to all-sizes-fit-all. It means that all students regardless of their learning needs will personalize their learning in collaboration with their teachers that act as facilitators to “scaffold” their learning.

Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 by Ammar Merhbi

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Moodle has been at the forefront of online learning for learning institutions. And, since it is open source, and free for all, it is common that the community that benefit from Moodle to give back in various ways. One such help comes in Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers. It was first done by Joyce Seitzinger, and then adapted to Moodle 2 by Sue Harper.

I have added the feature of interactivity to the guide however. By adding videos to the tool, anyone who wants to learn how to use any tool can just click on the interactive layer and watch the video. I surely hope this helps teachers learn Moodle tools easily and know how each tool affords different learning outcome.

I will hopefully later add more interactivity in terms of instructional design, such as Bloom's taxonomy, assessing learning etc.

Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2015 by Ammar Merhbi


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Many teachers I talk to claim that they know Bloom’s taxonomy, the old and the updated one, they heard other teachers talk about it, they heard it in seminars, in workshops, and the even read about it. However, when asked to build instructional objectives based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, this is where why founder. This is where Instructional Objective Builder, developed by Arizona Stat University Teach Online and designed by James Basore. It is not a fancy too as you look at it, but it gives the right scaffold for teachers to build their instructional objectives based on Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain. Watch the quick overview below.

Posted on Saturday, March 29, 2014 by Ammar Merhbi

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The NMC Horizon 2013 report  came out couple of weeks back with its time-to-adaption of emerging technologies in k-12 education. What New Media Consortium Horizon does is conduct extensive research in the domain of digital learning, and project their probability on the adoption of emerging learning technologies. The report features six technologies with three adoption horizons: 1 year, 2 to 3 years, and 4 to 5 years.The report also includes major trends in the area of digital learning in k-12 education and the major challenges facing education in terms of using technology in education.

Time-to-Adoption for K-12

New-term Horizon (Time-to-adoption 1 year)

Mobile Learning

mobile learning
Mobile learning is becoming an essential part in k-12 education. There have already been many initiative programs like the one-to-one and the BYOD programs to help students learn anytime and everywhere. Mobile learning also has more affordance than laptops or PCs for combining the real world and virtual tools in what’s called augmented reality (more on this later). In a recent world report on mobile usage, it was reported that approximately 85% of the world now have mobile phones (and a lot in Africa as well). However, the usage of mobile phones in education has up till now been limited by the bureaucracy in the education sector, teachers’ and school administrators’ unwillingness to adopt new and emerging technologies, and even (at times) students’ lack of interest in using mobile phones in their learning.

Cloud Computing


There is no question about it. Cloud computing has swept businesses, governments, health care, and lastly, but modestly, education. Cloud computing has a lot of benefits, most important of which: cutting down on loss in IT maintenance, better online collaboration, and less hassle for the IT department. Schools have adopted cloud computing so quickly because of their affordability and the absence of any technical maintenance. Google Apps for Education for example offers a suite of collaborative and communicative tools that help the school, teachers, and students work anywhere, and everywhere without cost or any technical knowledge. Google Chromebooks were also adopted swiftly across schools due to their affordability, and having only cloud apps.

Mid-term Horizon (Time-to-adoption 2 -3 years)

Learning Analytics

An emerging field in educational technology, learning analytics pertains to deciphering huge amount of data (Big Data) through learning management systems or any software students use to predict how students learn, and even the probability whether they would fail in a current course so that proper action would be taken to adapt the course to their needs. Some schools have started using LA. However, I am dubious about whether the adoption will be in 2 to 3 years. LA is still in it infancy, even for higher education, and many researchers and educators are still working on refining LA methodologies. To say its adoption horizon is within 2 to 3 years is very ambitious at best.

Open Content

A lot of move in the past couple of years has been towards open content, or open educational resources, not to be confused with free resource because “Far more than just a collection of free online course materials, the open content movement is increasingly a response to the
rising costs of education, the desire to provide access to learning in areas where such access is difficult, and an expression of student choice about when and how to learn”. This is a clear indication that education is moving to the next generation learning era, with the rise of new models of OER publishing of textbooks and educational materials. Open content movement started almost a decade ago with MIT publishing their courses online for free to anyone who wants to view and learn. Since then, many strides towards OER have been done, the last of which was MOOCs, with its pioneers Steven Downs and George Siemens. Still though, the area of open content is still debatable in the k12 arena as many of the schools around the world are built around a business model, a for-profit model, and many huge enterprises like Pearson for Education would be the first to suffer if OER models are adopted on a massive scale.

Far-term Horizon (Time-to-adoption 4 -5 years)


Virtual and Remote Labs

Leveraging high speed internet access and cloud computing, virtual and remote labs are being adopted by schools that do not have fully-equipped labs. But that’s not the only reason. Students can do simulated lab work and experiments with greater efficiency and control than they would do in a physical lab, and they can repeat the experiment as much as they like, giving them more practice and more room for observation over their errors. I believe that virtual labs are already here as I have seen it in many schools, but I do not know why NMC Report has placed it at the far-term horizon. I think we will see more of it in the next 2 to 3 years.

3D Printing

The first time I saw a demonstration of 3D printing few years back on TED, I was stunned, could this be possible? I was also stunned to know that 3D printing was present decades ago but because of their high-cost they did not get through mass production or to the public. Now, with the presence of innovative technologies, not only manufacturers can access it , the public can do, with a 300$ 3D printer. 3D printing has entered the education domain three years back with some schools being innovative enough to have students model and produce their products. This is a very promising technology that will really affect students learning. It needs however more time for adoption.

Final Thoughts on Time-to-Adoption

I wonder why the report has not also included “Augmented Reality” too as it is not yet adopted by schools and holds great potentials for learning. The usage of AR in conjunction with the textbook and real world science inquiry will definitely have a great positive effect student achievement.
If you want to read the full NMC Horizon Report for k12 download it here.

Key Trends in K12

The report has also done a extensive review of articles, papers, and new research to identify and rank trends affecting, teaching and learning and innovation in k12.

1. Educational paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models.

With students already spending too much time online, schools are opting in for using online learning and blended learning models. But this is not the only reason that schools are rushing into these models. The results from blended learning model schools are really impressive. They have high scores, more student engagement, and low student drop outs.

2. Social Media is changing the way people interact, present ideas and information, and communicate.

There’s no doubt about it. Social media has given power to powerless people. This is something that many schools are trying to harness to give students more power in their learning and giving the teachers the role of a coach instead of the sole source of knowledge.

3. Openness- concepts like open content, open data, and open resources are gaining more audience in the k12 domain

Education publishing giants are facing a real predicament with the open textbook initiatives and open content initiatives. Schools are more than ever accessing, using ,and remixing open educational resources to fit their needs. Teachers are now aware of it potentials and schools are driving their faculties towards adopting openness. However, there needs to be more effort put into curating and organizing content to make them more adaptable and accessible.

4. Revisiting our roles as educators

I said in many of my blog posts, I said it face-to-face with teachers and admin, I said on social media, on video, and I say it again : Teachers need to reassess their roles as sole transmitters of knowledge. No more, sage on the stage, no more Big Brother, no more the only expert in the room. Teachers need to realize that and should encourage students not to think of them like that. Teachers should encourage students to think of them as co-learners, but more knowledgeable. They explore together, and help each other. Many teachers sadly do not do that and are not comfortable believing that their role has changed.

Significant Challenges

With all the trends and emerging technologies, the challenges of using technology or adopting a trend are numerous.

1. Ongoing professional development needs to be valued and integrated into the culture of schools

Extensive body or research has shown that the one-stop workshop or one year professional development sessions would not do anything to improve teachers performance with technology. Teachers need to know, be in contact with, use, teacher, reflect, and redo with ongoing classrooms. Teachers need to take risks whilst teaching and not attend or practice in hands-on workshops away from their natural environments. And so, offering external or internal workshops is not the solution. Schools need to adopt professional development programs that are integrated in the school culture. The school should nurture a supporting community of practice for teachers to experiment and reflect on teaching wit technology.

2. Too often it is education’s own practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies.

Many teachers still believe that taking risks with new technologies, or piloting them are beyond their reasonability boundaries. This needs to be changes,and teachers should see themselves not only as content teachers but experimenter and their classrooms are their labs. The schools too should put clear policy on piloting and experimenting with technology.

3. New models of of education are bringing  unprecedented competition to traditional education

Bended learning model schools, online or virtual school, and MOOCs are some of the models that are brining competition to traditional education. These models are flexible and personalize education for their learners.

4. K-12 must increase the blending of formal and informal learning

“In order for students to get a well-rounded education with real world experience, they
must also engage in more informal in-class activities as well as experience learning outside the classroom”. In many schools students are not encouraged to do that. Students need to work out of class, connect with real world and join it with their in-class activities. In fact, the paradox is that schools are build as social service to society has nothing social in it, they are disconnected from the community. 

5. The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.

“The increasing demand for education that is customized to each student’s unique needs is driving the development of new technologies that provide more learner choice and control and allow for differentiated instruction, but there remains a gap between the vision and the tools needed to achieve it”. It’s still a  vision at least for now since schools have not yet achieved any tangible results with personalizing education and differentiating instruction. Most schools are still following the same lockstep prescriptive approach given 300 years ago, only this time with technology. If technology does not transform the way we teacher and how students learn then there is not need to spend so much effort , so much time,and so much money to use them.

6, We are not using digital media for formative assessment the way we could and should.

It is true that technology gives students timely feedback through automated tests and more time connectivity with teachers. Still, teachers and schools are not really using formative assessment to increase students achievement by tweaking the course for better results. This should be more of a lean teaching approach, tweak as you go. Technology offers many options from observing students’ skills and knowledge to getting data from their behavior as they interact with technology. Teachers and schools should put more effort into data analysis and tracking systems that would give them patterns of students’ interactions.

Posted on Thursday, March 27, 2014 by Ammar Merhbi