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

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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


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Common Sense Media, a leading nonprofit organization that provides trustworthy information for kids and families to thrive in the world of media and technology, has produced Graphite, a great website for teachers  to discover, use, and share tools, apps, games, website, and digital curricula for their students. All resources are rated and reviewed by their trustworthy community of teachers. As a user, you can also suggest a product for review to get an honest professional advice from Graphite’s teacher community.
Graphite is useful for teachers to explore more in depth the worthiness of a tool or website and possible ways they might be used in the classroom. Graphite is still in its first year of launch but has great potentials to grow its stock of reviews.
Also, do not forget to check out their Common Sense Media for Educators.

Posted on Saturday, January 04, 2014 by Ammar Merhbi

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Like any parent,I enjoy my kid’s engaging with an educational app assuming that it is useful and that it helps my kid comprehend a new concept. Although I see great benefits in the child’s engagement with an educational app, I have a conviction that the app alone won’t help the child understand concepts or prevent the child from developing “misconceptions”. The child needs a more competent person to guide and explain concepts guarding the child from incorporating misconceptions by observing nuances in the child’s behavior during his play that the app won’t recognize. Of course, if the educational app is well designed based on pedagogical models that work, the app would incorporate a tutor and/or tutee. that would take into account all misconceptions that children might develop.  However, if one looks at all the educational apps, only few are designed and developed based on proven pedagogical models.

First, to explain my point, let me tell you about on instance with my child that prompted a parent’s attention to rectify a possible misconception. We have proudly downloaded a Math application for kids that we thought it was “WOW” because of the graphic, the human-screen interactivity, and the feedback for the kid’s responses. This particular app helps the child in counting to 10 using his fingers. The child would typically press and hold a finger or more  and the app will display visually and auditory the  number of fingers held on screen.

At first our child scarcely knew how to use the application and what it did. Eventually, after a few tries, he gave up. Later that night however, when he felt he was alone, he picked up his iPad and started playing with the Math app. First, he watched an embedded video demo on how to use the app and after 4 views he started to get the idea behind it. Then, delighted that he figured it out, he started pressing and holding his fingers enjoying the audio and visual display on the number of fingers that are in contact with the screen. I was delighted at first, observing him from behind. I however, observed, as he went along with his play, that he pressed his thumb to get a “1” feedback then he took his thumb off and pressed and held his index finger expecting a no. “2” but got a “1” feedback instead. Then, he pressed his middle finger, expecting a “3” feedback but again got a “1” instead. He was ambivalent on how if he pressed two his thumb he would get a “1” and then, with the thumb pressed on the screen, he would use his index too and would get a “2”, but won’t get a “2” if the index is pressed alone. He started looking at his index finger as if it were a no. “2” alone and at his middle finger as if it were no. “3” alone.

I had to intervene at this point to explain to him the concept and  how to think about numbers and fingers. Only then he understood the relationship between numbers and counting on fingers.

These subtleties can never be detected by apps, at least those that are not designed based on learning theories, and the child needs a more knowledgeable “person” to help the child to reach his “zone of proximal development”. Parents should also go beyond the “WOW” factor of the app and explore whether it does help their child understand a concept. Most importantly parents should be present with their child noting observable learning or mislearning and rectify errors in a timely manner.

Posted on Saturday, January 04, 2014 by Ammar Merhbi

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

It’s been more than 8 years since I started using technology in the classroom. Ever since then technology has drastically and rapidly evolved concurrently with how I used it to support student learning. However, there was a pattern I have noticed in our students which is that they are technology comfy but not technology savvy. Throughout my years as a teacher and then senior teacher, edtech specialist and teacher trainer I have noticed that not only teachers lack the necessary knowledge base into incorporating technology into their content and pedagogy (TPACK deficit), students too are not aware and not well prepared to use technology to support their learning.

Across all student ages, nationalities, and academic abilities there are but a few students who use technology in support for their own learning. This is chiefly due to lack of integration between ICT subject and other subjects, lack of understanding on part of the teacher on the importance of technology to help students solve problems, communicate, and collaborate, and students’ lack of motivation to use it in their learning process unless prompted.

I recall once teaching a Grade 12 class a course in conducting research. I was helping them with tutorials on how to use automated referencing system, Zotero or Mendeley, whilst writing their study report. They asked me a lot of questions that I was startled by because I assumed that they should know about, like : How do we insert page numbers into Microsoft Word? or How do we double space lines? , How do we do graphs in Excel?

A Grade 11 class I was teaching in Literature had to produce a poster as part of their assignment. They did not actually know that Microsoft Publisher existed or that it came as part of Microsoft Office package that they have installed on their computers.

The idea is that students are not aware that these tools exist and have never explored nor used them to solve problems. The other issue is that teachers have never asked them to use tools to help them with their assignments. However, once everything is in place, tutorial videos are given and guidelines of accepted practice are set , students rapidly start developing sense of urgency and the need to figure out how to work with the tool. This is a great thing   ; however, it has a steep learning curve because instead of focusing on completing the task, students are preoccupied with figuring out how to use the features.

The solution? A system’s approach of integrating technology in education. There should be a real plan into adopting particular tools into teaching and learning. Such an integration should happen horizontally and vertically to ensure students of all ages and across all disciplines have equitable access to and opportunity in using technology in their learning process.

Posted on Thursday, January 02, 2014 by Ammar Merhbi

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Saturday, November 16, 2013


I’ve been asked lately by some teachers to share with them a list of platforms that offer MOOCs. It is great to see that teachers are gaining interest and realizing that learning is a lifelong process that, with the help of technology, can happened anytime, anywhere. Some of the MOOCs I  list below are offered by outstanding universities around the globe, other ,however, are not well known, but are worth the look.

  • Coursera is the top MOOC platform offering hundreds of courses from top universities in the world. Courses encompass everything you can think of. However, teachers and educators might be interested in these courses. A typical course would include : short video lectures, discussion forums, weekly assignments and deadlines, and a final test. The courses vary in duration and requirements depending on the course type and the university offering it. Some courses that I have undertaken were outstanding, others however were a not so worth the effort and time, and I had to drop out because of the boring online lectures.


  • Edx is another MOOC platform offered by Harvard, MIT and University of California Berkley, among others. Courses are worth taking as they are offered by Ivy league universities. However, the courses are limited in scope, mainly focusing on computer science, electronics, and sciences.


  • Novoed MOOC platform is offered by Stanford university. The courses are great. I have taken two courses myself “Designing a New learning Environment” and “ A Crash Course on Creativity”. The course on Designing a new Learning Environment was outstanding as it followed a PBL approach and we had to assemble a team for the final project assignment. Novoed however is mainly geared towards Entrepreneurship and technology courses.

  • is another MOOC platform with courses offered by great universities. I have taken a course “Learning Analytics” offered by George Siemens, the professor who  offered the first MOOC in the world. His approach was a connectivist approach, dispersing knowledge among many social media platforms.


  • Udemy is an other interesting MOOC platform ;however, many of its courses have a low fee. The courses are offered by either university professors or professionals.


  • Future Learn is UK’s earnest endeavor in entering MOOCs domain dominated by US terrain.


  • Alison Courses is yet another not well known MOOC.Initiated in Ireland, this MOOC platform offers many online courses for free mainly for soft skills. All courses are for free, but if you wish to take out the ads you need to pay a small fee. There is also a group management account if you are intending to give courses to your employees or students so that you are able to manage their accounts and track their progress.


  • Openlearning is great MOOC platform that connects teachers with students. Courses can be taught for free or can have a little as 10$ fee for every student. Courses are very varied but still limited in scope. Openlearning has a great potential but still is fledgling.


  • DS106 Do you love digital storytelling? Do you want to know how to use it in real life and in the classroom? Then this unconventional MOOC might be worth the look.

Digital Storytelling (also affectionately known as ds106) is an open, online course that happens at various times throughout the year at the University of Mary Washington… but you can join in whenever you like and leave whenever you need. This course is free to anyone who wants to take it, and the only requirements are a real computer, a hardy internet connection, preferably a domain of your own and some commodity web hosting, and all the creativity you can muster.

Posted on Saturday, November 16, 2013 by Ammar Merhbi

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Some three years ago I posted a Bloom’s updated digital taxonomy interactive wheel. It gained a lot of traction among the blogosphere back then, but then it was  lost in cyberspace due to many glitches on the website. In this post, I am republishing the interactive wheel of Bloom’s digital taxonomy with the overarching knowledge domains. I am also adding another interactive Bloom’s triangle.

Note that the two interactive instances are in flash, and so will not work on mobile phones. I will do my best to republish them in html5. But until then here they are ! Click on the images below to view them.




Posted on Sunday, November 10, 2013 by Ammar Merhbi

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Saturday, November 9, 2013


One of the best features of Google Docs is that teachers can comment on students’ essays by highlighting the selected text and giving textual commentary. Students can in turn comment back on their teacher’s comment, making it a great formative feedback for essay writing. It does not only kill the red ink annotations, which are a real annoyance to students, but also targets the intended selection to comment on in an organized manner.

However, if teachers want to take formative feedback to new levels of personalized feedback, a voice feedback would be a great solution.


This is what Kaizena actually does, and more. Kaizena is a voice commentary online application that integrates fully with Google Drive to maintain the smooth workflow. You don’t even have to go to Kaizena website to install it. It works much like the Google Docs commentary but instead of textual commentary in the highlighted essay section, you include a voice commentary. Kaizena also supports text commentary and highlighting options, but its stellar feature is voice commentary.

To open the students’ Google Document using Kaizena  for the first time you need to associate your Google Drive documents to open with Kaizena App.

From within the Google Drive, click on Create and then click on “Connect More Apps”. You will get a pop up window with many apps to choose from. Search for “Kaizena” and then install.

kaizena add


To open your students’ documents via Kaizena, right click on any student’s document and then choose “ Open with” and then choose “Kaizena”. This will open the student’s Document in Kaizena. From there it is very easy to insert voice comments.

essay kaizena

However, make sure that you ask your students to also connect Kaizena App to their Google Drive and to open their documents similar to the way you did.

What do you think of voice comments? Do you think it adds a personalized dimension of essay feedback? What are the effects on students’ noticing using sound instead of text. I haven’t found much conclusive studies on this, but they suggest that students tend to notice their errors more and are more inclined to revise their essays. I believe it is perhaps related to the psychological closeness that it creates between the teacher and his students.

Posted on Saturday, November 09, 2013 by Ammar Merhbi

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Sunday, October 21, 2012













You’ve seen them everywhere, in malls, supermarket, on Pepsi cans and pizza cartons. QR codes hold double information more than a barcode. Therefore, they can hold a text, web link, contact address etc. In the past two years, educators have been finding interesting ways in integrate QR codes in their teaching practice. For example, have a look at the 50 Interesting ways to use QR codes to Support learning. Using QR codes stimulates students’ interests in ways you could never imagine possible. It gets them moving around the classroom and in school premises with exploration and anticipation in their minds.

When used with mobile dictionaries, QR codes can help students effectively learn and recycle vocabulary words . My reflection on one of my lessons using QR codes and mobile dictionaries is that they resulted in more vocabulary retention, motivation, and autonomy.

The Lesson

The lesson was a revision of vocabulary clusters (lexical sets) the students have acquired the previous academic year. One of the aims of the lesson was to recycle the students’ vocabulary before the sit for SAT.

You can download the lesson package to help you design your vocabulary lesson using QR codes and mobile dictionaries. (Click “file” then “download” to download the zip file)

Below is a slideshow of my students scanning QR code in the hallway, writing down the vocabulary, using mobile dictionaries to define the words, and then clustering them (dividing them into lexical sets).

What do you think of mobile learning using QR codes and mobile dictionaries so far? Do they hold promising potentials for student learning?

Posted on Sunday, October 21, 2012 by Ammar Merhbi

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