Going Beyond the Tools!

September 5, 2014

Welcome back everyone! I hope you had a great summer. I’m excited to announce that Avi Spector’s ICT Blog is evolving into something a little different this school year. In the spring of 2008, Avi Spector’s ICT blog was started to collect and share web-based tools that could be used in our classrooms. It’s hard to believe that just six years ago smartphones were rare in the classroom, and apps and tablets didn’t even exist. Technology integration mainly involved using interactive websites to supplement teaching materials and there was lots of buzz around our new SMARTBoards. As such, a big part of my job was visiting FGA centres to provide one-size-fits-all technology demos to large groups of teachers.

Over time, I discovered that focusing solely a tool was not necessarily the best approach. Many workshop participants had trouble applying the tool in their own classroom environment, and therefore, they did not use it. As I got closer to the teachers I moved away from a one-size-fits-all approach and began working more collaboratively with teachers and smaller groups to come up with individualized solutions. We now start by first looking at the learning objective(s), rather than designing a lesson or learning situation around a particular tool.

This is the motivation behind my new website, Beyond the Tools. I want to help teachers move beyond the tools and work together to share our best practices in regards to technology integration. Rather than simply providing information about an app or tool, I will be focusing instead on sharing stories of successful projects and connecting teachers with similar goals.

I’ve also ported over my full history of app suggestions, interactive whiteboard content, and web tool suggestions from my old ICT blog. These may come in handy as you brainstorm about projects and look at what you would like to accomplish in the classroom. These all can be found at my new site at www.beyondthetools.com.

As many of our schools have opened their wifi networks to students, a lot of us now find ourselves teaching in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom. Students might be experts at using their own devices but often still need a teacher’s guidance in knowing how and when to use their technology for learning. How can we help our students with information literacy skills (critical thinking, search strategies, copyrights) and safe on-line behavior? How can concepts like the Flipped Classroom and Gamification help in a BYOD classroom?

These are just a few of the topics I’d like to address on the new site. As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback. I’m also interested in hearing about you and showcasing your projects on Beyond The Tools for others to see and learn from throughout the year. Be sure to check my “speaking and events” section for upcoming events and links to resources from past workshops. See you around!

Note: If you’re already subscribed to Avi Spector’s ICT Blog by e-mail, I will automatically move over your e-mail subscription to Beyond the Tools. Nothing needs to be done on your part.

Announcement: Using the iPad in language and math FGA classrooms (Webinars for teachers: March 25th and 26th)

March 4, 2013

Quick overview: This school year, we’re seeing lots of iPads being deployed in our FGA centres. Are you curious what you can do with the iPad in YOUR classroom?

Why this approach? I know some of you live in remote areas, while some of you may not have much release time or have a travel budget to attend large workshops. As so, I’ve decided to experiment with a different formula called a “webinar”. The word “webinar” is a combination of the words “web” and “seminar”.  It’s pretty much a short lecture that is delivered over the web.

What are we covering? These webinars will only be 1 hour in length – short and to the point! The first webinar will be “FGA Language apps for the iPad” and the second webinar will be “FGA Math Apps for the iPad”. If you’d like to know more about what will be covered in each session, please click this webinar information PDF for more details. In a nutshell, these general webinars are intended to show you how the iPad is being used in actual FGA language and math classrooms and (hopefully!) spark some ideas on how you can adapt things for your students. If you like what you see, we can set up an appointment to plan something specefic for your own classroom.

What are we not covering? Even if you’ve never touched an iPad before, you should definitely still attend. That being said, these webinars are NOT intended to be a technical workshop of how to use an iPad. If that’s what you’re looking for, please let me know and I’ll set you up accordingly.

When are they? The RECIT Regional Service is planning on offering the language webinar on March 25th (12PM to 1PM) and the math webinar on March 26th (12PM to 1PM). The webinars are being offered over the lunch hour since there’s a greater chance that more teachers will be available.

What do you need? Are you a Quebec General Adult Education (FGA) teacher or administrator? If so, all you need to attend is a microphone, a computer, and an hour of time. It’s free too! As there are a limited number of spaces, you must confirm your attendance by filling out this on-line registration form. Please let me know if you have any questions. Happy spring break week!

Registration form: The mandatory registration form is available at this link.

.. And now for something completely different: It’s time to start a PLN!

October 30, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:


What is this about? After polling hundreds of FGA teachers from across the province, the area where FGA teachers indicated they needed the most help was networking with other teachers. As so, we’ve started a huge push towards helping teachers find proven ways to network with one another by helping them create their own Personal Learning Network, or PLN for short. Starting a PLN is a relatively easy way of ensuring that you obtain relevant professional development throughout the year, sort of what you’re doing right now on our ICT blog! But first, a word from our umm.. sponsor:

Here’s my short video that explains how a PLN works:

.. and here’s Marc-André Lalande’s take:

How should you start? If you’re interested in starting your own PLN, please don’t hesitate to contact Marc-André Lalande (@malalande) or myself (@a_spector). In addition to Twitter, there’s also other free tools to help you establish your PLN such as The Educator’s PLN which is an active network of teachers who participate in discussion groups, share resources, and more. For those of you already using Edmodo in-class with your students, you may want to check out the Edmodo Teacher Communities to connect with same subject teachers and obtain materials for your course.

Without trying to sound pushy or preachy, I’d really love to see more of us starting a PLN. Speaking to you as a teacher, it was a game changing experience when I started using Twitter for my own PD last year. Instead of waiting for PD at conferences or workshops, I now get my PD whenever I want and what’s most relevant to me.. I’m now constantly discovering new Web 2.0 tools, iPad apps, and teaching strategies throughout the entire school year. I’d be more than happy to help you go through the steps to get setup or come into your centre to provide a hands-on session. Just let me know! (Thanks to Marc-André Lalande also Steven Anderson, Kyle Pace, and Tom Whitby from “Understanding & Using Web 2.0 Tools to Create Personal Learning Networks” @ ISTE 2012, San Diego)

Workshop: Detecting on-line student plagiarism with Google

October 9, 2008

Quick overview: A very simple ICT tip for detecting (and confirming) on-line student plagiarism.

Workshop tip: Do you ever suspect student work of being plagiarized from on-line sources but have no way to prove it? In the video below, I explain a quick and easy trick to detect plagiarism using the Google search engine. The video is a two minute excerpt from the the Pearson Adult Career Centre (PACC) “Exploring ICT Resources” workshop that was given on October 8th, 2008.

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of how to detect plagiarism, click the large play button below:

Workshop: Writing a Learning Situation with CREation

October 7, 2008

Quick overview: CREation is a RECIT FGA Provincial Service project. In a nutshell, CREation aims to help Quebec General Adult Education teachers write Learning Situations in a straightforward and easily understandable manner. CREation also encourages the integration of ICT into Learning Situations.

CREation Workshop: The CREation workshop is typically a two day event. During the two days, participants are asked to write a learning situation, while continuously referring to the prescribed elements of the new Quebec curriculum. Participants are encouraged to examine both their teaching practices and the type of questions or tasks they are asking of their adult students. In the very last step, finalized Learning Situations are placed on the offical CREation website to be shared with other teachers. We often like to remind participants that CREation is not THE WAY to create a Learning Situation, but simply one way of approaching it. The second phase of the CREation project (if approved) will place an emphasis on helping teachers with the evaluation portion of a Learning Situation.

What about this year? In the 2008-2009 school year, I have been continuing to offer CREation workshops in conjunction with Claudine Turnbull from the RECIT FGA Provincial Service. As we often receive questions from teachers who wish to know more about CREation, I’ve produced an on-line video that provides an overview on how to create a Learning Situation with CREation. If you are interested in having a more in-depth CREation workshop in your FGA centre (or school board) please contact us by referring to the contact section of my ICT blog.

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video overview of writing a Learning Situation with CREation, click the large play button below:

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