Do You Integrate Technology?

Recently, I stumbled upon a fantastic blog, Neela shares thought-provoking ideas for gamification, eLearning, and how to design inspiring courses in Moodle. Through humour and solid examples, she gets educators thinking about what it means to design with intention.

If you are inspired by Neela’s work, I recommend checking out her Twitter account. It was here that I discovered this fantastic graphic:

Original author unknown

Start with SAMR

This chart reminds me of a classic ed tech model called SAMR, which stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. Oftentimes, when educators incorporate ed tech into their classroom, they focus on substituting a traditional paper and pencil method of learning with a digital one. For example, instead of writing responses on paper, students type their answers into a Word document. Unfortunately, this doesn’t elevate students’ learning experience; rather, it is just another way to collect information.

When we have a good sense of the lesson’s objectives and then focus on how to augment, modify, and redefine the lesson by using technology, we can extend what learning is possible. We can excite students and engage them in their own learning.

Looking for some ways to move past substitution? Check out the EmergingEdTech website for inspiration!

Integrate Rather than Use

I love to reflect on the graphic above because it focuses on student-centred learning. It helps me picture the kinds of experiences I think are important for students to have. Best of all, it helps me focus less on myself and more on the students.

While the SAMR model gets us to think about how we want to incorporate ed tech, the graphic challenges us to answer the why. Using the SAMR model along with this chart is a deadly duo.

Try it Yourself

When designing an ed tech lesson, I recommend starting with the lesson objectives, then using the SAMR model (A is ok, but M and R are even better), and finally reflecting on this chart to ensure appropriate ed tech integration.

How Does Fair Dealing Work for Educators?

Fair Dealing Decision Tool

The Biggest Myth

Want to know the biggest myth that even the most seasoned educators buy into? Anything on the Internet is fair game. Even if the intention to use an online source is for educational purposes, it doesn’t mean we can use it how we like. We have to make sure the dealing is fair.

Fair Dealing 101

In its simplest terms, fair dealing means that you don’t have to get permission from the copyright owner to distribute (i.e., deal) part of (or in some cases, all of) copyrighted work. This only works if the purpose of distribution is for education, research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, parody, or satire.

Litmus Test

How do you ensure that you are following the fair use rules? Best practice is to follow two simple guidelines:

  1. Ensure the distribution is for one of these reasons: education, research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, parody, or satire.
  2. Establish that the dealing is fair. This can get a bit complex, but best practice is to reproduce only short excerpts. A short excerpt could include up to 10% of a copyright-protected work, an entire artistic work such as a painting or photograph, a chapter from a book, an article from a periodical, a newspaper article, etc.

Basically, you only want to use as much of a copyrighted work as is necessary to achieve your educational purposes.

But What If . . .

When I started digging into fair dealing a bit more, I came up with all kinds of questions. At which point I called the copyright office at the University of Alberta. Here is what I learned:

  1. Avoid copying multiple passages or chapters from the same copyright-protected work, as this would not be considered fair dealing.
  2. Make sure an LMS site is password protected and that non-students don’t have access to the course materials. Otherwise, this could be considered copyright infringement.
  3. Link to YouTube videos when possible instead of embedding them in a course. Linking is not copying.
  4. Be careful when putting a journal article PDF into an online course. Each journal has different sharing permissions. Best practice is to link to a journal (except for the Harvard Business Review, which oddly enough, does not permit linking!)
  5. Try to find the eBook version of a book if you want to scan and post multiple chapters online. This way you can just link to the digital book. Otherwise, the university may have to pay for copyright permission to share the scanned copies online.
  6. Scroll to the bottom of the web page when you find an image you want to use online. If there are no specific terms of use or copyright information, you can use the image.

I think the ultimate best practice is to always give credit to the original work, and check in with a copyright specialist if you’re ever unsure!

Creative Commons is Always an Option

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization seeking to make it easier to share and reuse materials online. Creative Commons is best known for its copyright licenses, which helps make it easier for owners of copyright material to decide how they wish to share their work. These licenses also provide clear guidelines for users such as educators to use the original work.

I like to search for Creative Commons material first (especially when it comes to photos and videos), because I think their cause is extremely important in the digital age. (If it’s not possible to get in touch with the original copyright owner, who wants to wait x number of years for it to be in the public domain?! The information will probably be irrelevant by then. Rant over.)

When it isn’t possible to use Creative Commons material, I make sure to use materials that adhere to fair dealing and always cite the original work. This practice acknowledges the work of the original author and encourages students to do the same.

An Amazing Fair Use Tool

Navigating copyright can become extremely complicated. I recently learned about a Canadian platform called the Fair Dealing Decision Tool, and I’m so glad I did. If you’re not sure if you need copyright permission, using this online tool can walk you through the steps.

Give it a try!

Estimating Course Workload

Every now and then, you stumble across a tool that makes you stop and think, “how am I just learning about this now?!” This is one of those tools.

Rice University developed a free tool to help instructors estimate course workload. Since such a common question from students is, “How long will this take?!” I can see this tool coming in handy. Students really appreciate when they have a good grasp of the course requirements and expectations. This tool helps students plan out their schedules, and this level of transparency can add credibility to the course. It can show students that the instructor wants them to succeed. Instructors may even share with students how to plan in advance to manage their course workload and keep up with the flow of the course.

Unfortunately, not a ton of valid or reliable research has been done on the topic of estimating course workload. What I like about this tool is that it’s obvious the creators have done their research and then created something that’s as accurate as possible, given the available information out there. Read about the research behind the tool here.

The tool offers a fairly good estimate of how much reading, studying and prep work will be required (outside of class time) each week. In addition to this estimate, the creators allow users to manually adjust the time something can take to complete. If an instructor thinks an assignment or reading material may take a bit more time, it’s easy to make the adjustment.

I think the most valuable aspect of this tool is that it gives instructors a better understanding of their own expectations. Are they asking too little, too much, or just enough? In grad school, I worked on a group assignment in which we had to develop a whole course program. A fellow group member developed a lesson plan in which he assigned eight articles for students to read before class. I didn’t think this was necessary and voiced my concerns, but my argument fell short. Perhaps if I had this tool at the time, I could have better demonstrated my concerns…

Try it out for yourself here:


Image taken from Unsplash:

Ed Tech Rubric

It may seem like overkill to make a rubric to evaluate ed tech. But I found the process really helpful. Here’s my experience…

Rubrics are our Friends

In my master of educational technology studies, one of our tasks was to design a rubric to evaluate LMSs. We began by brainstorming common LMS features and then grouped them under the following categories: functional, technical, and administrative. Our goal was to create a rubric that assessed common features without pigeon-holing people using the rubric. This proved to be more difficult than we thought it would be! However, I think having a rubric is better than having no rubric at all. It’s nice to have a set of common criteria to evaluate different platforms.

Plus, rubrics can be used at multiple stages of evaluating a product:

1) A rubric helps people consider criteria they may not have thought of.

2) It opens up the dialogue and gets people talking about criteria that are most important for different audiences using the product.

3) It raises important questions for people to consider after purchasing a platform. I love the reflective aspect of rubrics: Did we achieve what we wanted? Did expectations match reality?  

Our group was happy with the end result, but the rubric was still quite long and onerous to fill out.

Rubric on the Job

Fast forward a year, and I am working as an instructional designer who’s tasked with trialling new educational technologies and finding the best instructional fit. I also have to persuade others that certain technologies are worth the money. I decided it would be worthwhile to create a rubric similar to the one I created for LMSs. I could share this with people to make informed decisions, and also teach them how to fill it out for future decisions.  

I had learned a few things from the first go-around. The administrative, functional, and technical headings made sense to our group when we were designing the rubric. But users found it a bit confusing, so I nixed that idea. I changed all the criteria when I created my own rubric for evaluating educational technologies. But it was still nice to review the original rubric and remember the conversations from all those group meetings. I also focused on simplifying the terms and using plain language to describe the criteria.

I created my first rubric in Excel. It was clunky looking and not very user-friendly. I had a couple people review this rubric. The best takeaways were 1) Put the information into a fillable PDF and 2) Consider using the SECTIONS framework to organize criteria.

SECTIONS framework

The SECTIONS acronym is really helpful when thinking about how to select technology for learning. It stands for Students, Ease of Use, Cost, Time, Interaction, Organizational Issues, Networking, and Security and Privacy. It’s a useful acronym because basically anyone can understand it without having a background in ed tech or ID.

Once I started using the SECTIONS framework, everything started falling into place. I wrote all the criteria in a Word Doc and then turned it into a fillable PDF. I also replicated the rubric for people to reflect on how the product was living up to expectations. This way, they could compare their “before” rubric to “after” using the product. This was overkill and made the document incredibly dense. So I took that out, and now when I share it with people, I just tell them to consider filling out the rubric again after they’ve purchased it.

The Rubric

Here it is:

I’m happy with the end result because it’s both easy to read and fill out. It was also a good opportunity to learn how to create a fillable form. And again, I am reminded that having other people look at your work is so rewarding! It’s never been the case where this hasn’t paid off for me.

For Next Time

  1. Consider a weighted system to make the most important aspects worth more. Someone asked me the point of using the rating system. It’s best practice to compare at least 3 products before making a decision. The final number can help someone make a decision. I could see a weighted system returning a more precise number.


SECTIONS model image from Tony Bates: