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Teaching with Technology - MrKent.Net

Mr. Kent's Blog

MrKent.Net’s Teaching with Technology Made Simple blog will give you insight into the ever changing world of educational technology.  Mr. Kent also shares his experiences as he uses technology daily in his classroom. To follow Mr. Kent also on Blogger go to


Curriculum of the Future?

 The one thing in education that has money constantly pour into it as it is talked about and revamped is the all consuming curriculum.  I still find it frustrating when I hear teachers stressing over covering every aspect of the "War and Peace" sized curriculum.  Are we not missing the point? Yes, we do have to make sure our students learn the essentials in Math, Language, Science and Social Studies, but getting hung up on covering content frequently cause teaching methods to suffer and in turn student learning. 

Scotland's new curriculum, while perhaps not perfectly implemented, seems to be on the right track. 

 " The changes, for children between the ages of three and 18, which are already in place in primary schools, aim to focus more on teaching methods rather than content, and seek to make young people more resourceful and responsible."

Is not our goal to help teachers use their natural talents and unique styles to effectively teach children the essentials, help them to be independent learners and become responsible and respectful citizens?  I think we continue to fall short of this with our constant focus on results and content.  Yes these are important parts of our system, but I think we can take something from the direction our Scottish friends are headed or better yet our Finnish counterparts that seem to have the secret recipe to great teaching and learning.

BBC News - New Scottish Curriculum for Excellence takes Effect.

What is the Key to Finland's Education Success?

6 Steps to Success at NECC

I'm disappointed I can't make it to NECC in Denver this year, but 6 Steps to Success With BrainPOP and ActivExpressions  is still a go and there will be some free books at the booth. Here are the details on how to get one.

6 Steps to Success With BrainPOP and ActivExpressions
8-10 am 
Location: CCC Lobby A, Table P33 

10 Interactive Whiteboard Tips

This article by Lisa Nielsen is a great reminder of the things we should and shouldn't do when using our digital whiteboards in the classroom.  Remember these tools only enhance your teaching if you use them properly.



Aboriginal Education

This great free movie from the National Film Board of Canada will help begin a racism and aboriginal education discussion with your class  Thanks Durham District School Board for a great conference.

MrKent.Net News

The latest edition of MrKent.Net News sponsored by Soundzaboud Royalty Free Music is now available

YouTube Moments

Most people think of YouTube as a place to view the latest ridiculous video, however with a little creativity it can be used as an effective teaching tool.

Last week I used a segment from a popular show, called The Shark Tank, to teach my intermediate students about presentation skills, working with percentages, business language and perseverance using this simple 10 minute T.V. segment (

During the lesson I noticed that every student was engaged and many were asking the questions that I had planned to ask.  Sometimes it just takes a little creativity with something that your students are familiar with to bring some life back into their learning.

100 Apps For Teacher

Here is a great list of teacher apps that a colleague sent me a few months ago.  It is jammed packed with tools for tech savy teachers.

Virtual Computing

Most people would agree that harnessing the power of the personal computing in our classrooms make sense. However, only a selected few have had the opportunity to implement the one computer per child program in their classrooms.  The main problem is cost.  The cost of purchasing computers or laptops for each child can become staggering, not to mention the cost of installation, maintenance and regular replacements.

The solution may lie in an article that is in ISTE's latest edition of  Learning & Leading, about a paperless classroom that uses virtual computing.  After some research I learned that virtual computing is based on the fact that we only use a small portion of the power of our personal computers.  Due to this fact, virtual computing allows us to run up to 30 workstations using the power of one personal computer.  Not only does this help the bottom line, as a bonus virtual computing dramatically cuts energy costs and reduces our carbon footprint since only 30 monitors are needed instead of 30 towers.

Will virtual computing be the catalyst that brings sustainable one to one computing technology into the classroom and enables teachers to transition from traditional teaching methods to project based learning?  Only time will tell.

For more information and case studies on virtual computing in schools visit

Who will Kindle the Romance?

The next year will be interesting as E-books and E-book readers become more mainstream.  This metamorphsis is very similar to the change we saw in the way people buy and listen to music over the last few years. 

I believe textbooks will be the first casualty of this battle, since they are not the type of books that people need to keep forever and anything that brings down the cost of the textbook will be readily embraced by university students and school boards.  Once publishers start accepting the change in times and modify the way they deliver content, the only textbooks left may be my $100/copy university textbooks collecting dust in my garage.

How E-books change the way we read novels, childrens books, magazines and other types of written works is still uncertain.  These mergers may be more of  a happy marriage of electronics and print.  Only time will tell if we all will be snuggling up with our Kindle or our dust old paperback.

Want to try out some e-books?  Here are some links from PC World to get you started. - Over 30, 000 free E-books. - Thousands of public domain titles. - Free E-book management software to convert, sync and manage you titles.

Google Docs

This year I have been working with students in our media literacy on various subjects.  I have noticed a lot of time and headaches occur when students are working together on assignments and projects.  I have decided to start utilizing Google Docs to try to eliminate a lot of the downtimes and frustrations. Check out the links below to learn more about Google Docs and stay tuned to find out more about my experience implementing google docs into our classes.

MrKent.Net News

The latest edition of MrKent.Net News - Teaching with Technology Made Simple is now available here. x5pr9jus7e

6 Steps For Your School

If you are working for an Ontario school board and would like a complimentary copy of 6 Steps to Success in Teaching with Technology, please send an email to with your name, school address and number of copies requested.

The Librarian = Tech Partner

This is a great article that summarize the skills the 21st century librarian should have and how teachers should utilize them.

Windmill Boy

A parent passed this touching and inspirational story on to me about a boy in Malawi who uses his intelligence to change his family, town and country,

Today, I will show the youtube version ( of the story to the class and have them read the BBC article. As an activity I will have them research other innovative ideas that are helping third world countries.  Before they begin searching the internet, I will give a short lesson on using Google's advance search features because many students aren't aware of this when they do internet research. 

It is very important for us as educators to show students how to better filter through the information they get online and find credible sources.

Beyond Stacks

National Education Association article about the new role of the school librarian in the digital age (

NETS For Your Students

As I begin my new role as Media Literacy Specialist, I have been reading about and utilizing the National Education Technology Standards (NETS) project that was developed by International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 2007.  NETS are a great guide for administrators and educators as we try to get our heads around what our students need to know about and be able to do with technology.  Below is the link to NETS for administrators, educators and students, as well the NETS Profiles that reveal what students should know and be able to do as they climb the educational ladder.


Future of the Textbook

Jordan Kent's blog on the Future of the Textbook

Library With or Without Books?

I am excited to be our Media Literacy Specialist this year at Burkevale Protestant Separate School.  As I update our library, the question that seems to arise is how to balance the modern digital information with traditional texts  I believe this will be an area of change in the next few years as teachers, and students begin to rely more and more on online resources rather than the traditional textbooks and non-fiction books.

Here is how one school is adapting to the change. -

Curriculum for Change

I came across this interesting article from the National Post about what we really need to be teaching our students.  Some food for thought that relates to our world of teaching with technology.

Libraries of the Future

This year I have the opportunity to run our school library and computer lab.  I believe this is going to be a challenging and rewarding opportunity because technology is changing the way libraries function, just as it is changing the traditional classroom.  I am looking forward to incorporating digital whiteboards, I-Pods, Laptops, Video Cameras, Video Conferencing and more into the library experience. 

"Library Media Center" is probably a better word for the school library of the future and "Media Literacy Specialist" is perhaps a better job description for a librarian. 

In my research I came across a great book called Designing a School Library Media Center for the Future, by Rolf Erikson.  To get a preview of Erikson's great insight into the library of the future check it out on Google Books.

I look forward to this challenge and will share what I learn with you about the future of libraries over the next year.

Tech Gems

This summer I had the opportunity to work for BrainPop at the annual NECC Conference in Washington D.C. Despite the struggling economy the conference was well attended by educators, administrators and vendors.  I had a chance to wander through the exhibits and talk to many great educators.  Here are a few gems that I found on my journey and in my discussion with colleagues. - Frontrow's classroom amplification systems will improve student learning and decrease teacher fatigue.  Their easy to use, and reasonably priced systems allow students to hear everything their teacher and classmates are saying. - Faronics, the creators of Deep Freeze, have created a great product called Insight that allows educators to monitor and manage computer labs and prevent distractions such as messaging, games and web surfing during lessons. - L4U is the leader in library software.  Their easy to use library automation system will bring your library to life. - Document cameras are quickly becoming the most popular and practical tech tool for the classroom.  After trying out various document cameras at NECC, the Lumens LadyBug stood out above the competition. - Innovative walls has fantastic peel & stick wall sticker that will brighten up any classroom, lab or library.  Their vast collection has designs that will appeal to every age group.

End of the Textbook?

California leads the way again.  Is it really the end of the textbook?

Professors Fail Technology 101


Michelle Kent
3rd year Journalism Student 
Carleton University
An online survey of 2,000 Canadian professors revealed an accelerated decline of student preparedness in recent years.
The Toronto Star article dated April 2009 reported the survey and concluded that students today are immature and expect reward without effort. Not only that, but we are simply “unprepared” for the rigors of academia—the main argument being that we use Wikipedia religiously.
God, save us all. Not Wikipedia!
Laziness and poor preparation is certainly a problem on campus, but it is not students alone who exhibit these traits. Let me explain.
I remember my first university lecture: a class of nearly 400 students, and a professor who, despite her high intellect and recognized academia, could not figure out how to use PowerPoint.
After short introductions, the professor fiddled with the desktop for a good twenty minutes. My tuition money put towards quality lecture time drained away with my patience.
I stared at the massive blank screen wondering how many other students wanted to take her aside and provide a three hour lesson on computer use, skipping the lecture altogether. Maybe she will pay us to teach her. While I lost my thoughts in the white abyss of the projector light, a young guy with short, partially disheveled hair strutted through the auditorium. Without saying a word, he presses something on the computer and walks out. Done and done.
“Are you serious,” said the girl sitting next to me. “Did he just turn it on?”
This continued throughout the semester not only in this class, but in my French class, Film class, Journalism class, and even my favourite, Women’s Studies.
Every week, students’ patience would wear thinner as lecture time was wasted on something that felt like second nature to our generation. 
Professors and universities must start surfing the teaching with technology tidal wave, hitting the educational system head-on.
First, they need to get up to date and keep up to date with the technological tools available. 6 Steps to Success in Teaching with Technology written by an young Ontario elementary teacher would be a wonderful beginning as well as viewing a couple of recent student produced Youtube videos, Pay Attention and A Vision of Students Today.
The videos should be required viewing for all academia, Ministry of Education staff and politicians.
Second, profs need to understand who it is they are dealing with. My generation is different. 
Don Tapscott, author of Grown Up Digital, and the best seller Wikinomics is a University of Toronto Rotman School of Business professor who says students today are simply wired differently due to their frequent use of technology.  Unfortunately, it’s these influences that have created for professors and employers the careless, irresponsible stereotype of the ‘Net Generation’.
This might explain why there are piles of young people still unemployed after finishing their degrees.  Tapscott, who in some ways is the second coming of his U of T predecessor, visionary Marshall MacLuhan scolds companies who eliminate or ignore their young people, claiming that they are vital to the western economy.
“It’s not just that they’re the future,” explains Tapscott in an interview with the Toronto Star. “In their culture is a new culture of work.”
In other words, this is a new culture of student "customers" for universities to deal with.
For thousands of years older generations have seen young people as futile—even Plato called them lazy and useless. But this time something is different. It is much bigger than new digital toys or a professor stumbling with a projector. There is more at stake here than our egos. The world is on the verge of something new, something with endless possibilities, something we could have never fathomed 50 years ago.
But with rapid progress comes the reluctance to accept change. No doubt, we will continue to suffer the consequences of indifference between generations unless attitudes change. According to Tapscott, the 11-year-old at the kitchen table is an authority on a digital revolution that's changing every institution in society.
“This is a formula for fear and we fear what we don't understand,” says Tapscott. “And fear gets in the way of doing the right thing.”
Are you listening, professors? You sell me learning and understanding, so what better time to develop your own life long e-learning skills and finally deliver what you owe to a new generation of customers?
It would truly benefit us all.

Digital Security for Schools I

In 6 Steps to Success in Teaching with Technology, we stated that, “no subject was of more concern than security, when developing a teaching with technology strategy for your classroom". We stressed the importance educating students, parents and teachers about their individual responsibilities and of developing clear standards for the use of technology in the classroom and in the schools.

Two factions of thinking are developing around the question of digital security in schools. Remember, digital security refers to any electronic tool being endorsed and utilized by the school and school board. This applies to board, school and teacher websites but also software use, emerging tools like e-testing as well as day to day student use of technology

One suggestion put forward is e-security must be extremely rigorous in all aspects of the schools’ virtual community. This makes sense when looking at cyber attacks on school websites, privacy of pictures and information, cyberbullying and student physical and emotional security. How far do we go? One school I am aware now bans the use of Youtube by students because of some of its content. Youtube does have some questionable content but is it not also a magnificent research and creative tool for students. What should we do?

Another avenue of thinking, be more flexible with security when it comes to student research and communication. This group believes there needs to be more individual responsibility in digital security. Teachers, boards and especially parents need to teach students “digital responsibilities”. Many of them have open access to the web elsewhere. They must be taught these e-rules and guidelines from the earliest age. They must be e-responsible as they must be in other areas of life such as when among strangers, watching TV, talking on the phone or visiting a library.

1 to 1 Computing

As schools move toward 1 to 1 computing we will see a shift in learning.  The traditional stand in front and lecture style teaching is changing to a project-based type of learning.  Finding the right solution can be tricky.  Here are some questions to ask before settling on a 1 to 1 computing solution.

- Full laptops or Netbooks?
- With or Without Windows?
- XP or XP Pro?
- What price is realistic?
- Can it be managed properly?
- How about security and safety?

Dell is now into the netbook game with their newest netbook that is geared toward K-12.  They seem to be listening to teachers and schools because they have many of the solutions which will help 1 to 1 computing work for you.

Trying to Keep Up

This e-learning and technology revolution is moving so fast, that people are finding it hard to keep up.  This is especially true for educators, who are trying to manage a classroom at the same time.  I think the secret is finding a few tools that work for you and mastering them. 
     I have introduced many new teaching tools into our school including; student response systems, digital whiteboard, a school wide Moodle website. The teachers that seem to be adapting best are the ones that choose the tools that work for them and simply focus on learning how to best incorporate the tool into their own teaching.  Don't get overwhelmed ,adapt the technology to you, and don't let it overwhelm you.  Remember your main goal is always to teach your students the best way possible.

Youtube Life Lesson

This week there was a great example of how technology is connecting our world and classrooms.  The day after Susan Boyle appeared on Britain's Got Talent, her YouTube video was sent to people around the globe.  The video had over 11 million hits the day after it aired.  I heard about it on traditional radio, received an email about it, was notified about it on facebook, got a twitter about it and saw it on cable news.  This story enabled teachers to show the performance to their students the very next day, which taught us all a valuable character-ed lesson about judging other and perserverance.

PC as a Teacher?

Bill Gates' replacement talks about the future of PC's and how we are just in the early stages of what they will be able to do.

$20 Dollar Laptops?

India’s “Sakshat” laptop is claiming to be the first $20 laptop.  The prototype will be unveiled later this year.  Not sure what they can create for $20 , but if it is a quality product many third world nations will benefit.

Read More

Mandatory Online Courses?

The New York Times reports that New Jersey High Schools may soon require students to complete one online course before they graduate to help better prepare them for using technology and learning in a virtual world.  Read more.

Top 10 Web 2.0 Tools

Top 10 Web 2.0 Tools from T.H.E. Journal.

Ebooks & Kindle

This following excerpt and article are from CNN Money introducing a new digital e-book technology.  Will this be the next big thing in education and are we seeing the extinction or the textbook?

"Supporters believe it is only a matter of time before books go digital, just like music and movies have. Citigroup analysts have gone as far as to call the Kindle "the iPod of the book world" and project Kindle-related revenues to reach $1.2 billion in 2010 -- four percent of Amazon's total revenue. In the future, instead of asking your friends what's playing on their iPod, you may be inquiring, "What's on your Kindle?" 

Obama's Schools

Barack Obama and Teaching with Technology from a speech at Stebbins High School near Dayton, Ohio,  September 2008

"Without a workforce trained in math, science, and technology, and the other skills of the 21st century, our companies will innovate less, our economy will grow less, and our nation will be less competitive. If we want to out-compete the world tomorrow, we must out-educate the world today," .

"While technology has transformed just about every aspect of our lives--from the way we travel, to the way we communicate, to the way we look after our health--one of the places where we've failed to seize its full potential is in the classroom.

"Imagine a future where our children are more motivated because they aren't just learning on blackboards, but on new whiteboards with digital touch screens; where every student in a classroom has a laptop at [his or her] desk; where [students] don't just do book reports but design PowerPoint presentations; where they don't just write papers, but they build web sites; where research isn't done just by taking a book out of the library, but by eMailing experts in the field; and where teachers are less a source of knowledge than a coach for how best to use it and obtain knowledge. By fostering innovation, we can help make sure every school in America is a school of the future.

"And that's what we're going to do when I'm president. We will help schools integrate technology into their curriculum, so we can make sure public school students are fluent in the digital language of the 21st-century economy. We'll teach our students not only math and science, but teamwork and critical thinking and communication skills, because that's how we'll make sure they're prepared for today's workplace."

Wildlife Filmmaker

I came across Wildlife Filmmarker today on National Geographic's amazing website.  This program just makes an excellent site even better, if you consider its great content, pictures, videos, live Wildcams and many other great features.

Wildlife Filmmaker is a program which allows students to create their own wildlife documentaries.  The program works like Movie Maker and allows students to add clips, pictures, sounds and captions to their videos.   I recommend having your students play around and create a short video, then have them do their own research for a more formal project. The nice part is that students can save their videos and show them to their parents.

UK Technology Collecting Dust

I came across this very interesting article from the Times.  I have seen this problem cropping up in our schools as well.  The ministry, school boards and teacher colleges need to put more emphasis into training teachers to use technology otherwise these fantastic educational tools will become expensive paper weights.

Where's the Plan?

I continue to hear stories of schools that are not properly integrating digital whiteboards into their classrooms:

- Digital whiteboards sitting in libraries or in the back of classrooms collecting dust.
- Teachers unable to use their digital whiteboards because they haven't been set up after summer renovations.
- Other teachers unwilling to use digital whiteboards because it is too much of a hassle to move the whole system to their classroom.

School boards and Ministries of Education need to develop a solid plan to properly integrate technology and support teachers in their efforts to improve student learning. Otherwise their investments in classroom technology will be all for nothing,

Differentiated E-Learning

Our staff at the Protestant Separate School Board was fortunate to hear Janet-Lee Stinson speak on our last P.D. Day.  Janet has been working as a literacy consultant for the Simcoe District School Board and is currently completing a book about her work with Arnie Stewart ( who couldn't read for most of his life and who along with Janet is spreading the message of a better tomorrow through literacy to schools throughout North America. 

Janet spoke to us about differentiated learning which goes hand and hand with teaching with technology.  The tools teachers are gaining as they enter the teaching with technology world will only help as they also begin to differentiated their teaching.  Whether it is podcasts, blogging, using webquests, creating movies, or designing websites the possibilities to differentiate instruction using technology are becoming endless.

Ed-Tech Support

Our school made the decision this year to give our teachers technology support each week. This has allowed me to take a day each week to work with teachers to help make their teaching with technology experience easier.

This is very important to teachers because most teachers don't have extra time during the day to spend figuring out software, hardware or searching for new websites. Without this type of support, most teacher will become frustrated and give up on incorporating technology into their teaching.

ECOO a Success

The 2008  annual ECOO (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) conference was a great success. Quality keynote speakers, informative sessions and quality vendors made for another delightful conference.

Thanks to all those who attended my session 6 Steps to Success in Teaching with Technology.  Your kind words and enthusiasm to incorporate technology into your classrooms was inspiring.

For those who would like to hear the session it will be posted on my website shortly.  My Power Point notes will also be available in the resources section.

Thanks again for your support and enjoy your books.

More than Pencils and Books

Here is a recent article about our school boards e-learning initiative in the Midland Mirror.

Gaming to Learn?

Last week I taught my grade 5 and 6 students about energy, the environment and economic growth.  I used a great game called to teach these concepts.  Using gaming to learn has been met with scepticism in the past, however, after using this unique game to teach, I definitely see the potential of gaming in education if it properly combines fun with learning.

Mini-Laptops in the Classroom

After I attended the National Educational Computing Conference in San Antonio someone asked me what the next big thing in educational technology would be.  Of course, digital whiteboards, students response systems and course management systems like Moodle are still popular, however the new technology that will take schools by storm are mini-laptops also known as mini-notes. 

These little laptops are the size of a small book and are perfect for students.  Many companies are gearing these mini-laptops toward students.  They are durable, provide a “real PC” experience, are student friendly, and are full of educational features. Furthermore, they are very inexpensive compared to their big brother the laptop.  Most companies are selling their mini-laptops for less than $500, which means that they will get even cheaper as popularity and competition increase. 

This could mean that we are not far away from a realistic movement toward 1 laptop per child.  Schools like ours have been trying to get regular laptops into the hands of students for the last few years.  However, storage, maintenance and portability are issues that limit regular the use of the laptops by students.  Mini-laptops might just solve all those issues and make a paperless classroom a reality.

Computer Technology Link (CTL) and their 2GoPC is one example of a company that gears their mini-laptops towards students. There are many other companies that are getting into the mini-laptop business including HP, Asus, Fugitsu, Everex and M&A. 

Before buying a mini-laptop for every student in your board, schools should try them out in a few classrooms where teachers are keen on integrating technology into their classrooms.  This way problems can be solve and a plan can be developed to properly integrate other mini-laptops into your school.


Class Blogging and Podcasts

We create podcasts and daily blogs in our grade 6 class.  These two tools are a great way to improve literacy skills with technology.  These activities also help teachers to fulfill the new media literacy components in many new curriculums.  For more information on blogging or podcasting check our  Mr. Coley is a teacher from California whose website has been a great resource for building our class website, podcasts and blogs. 


Student Response Systems

In the Toronto Star there was an article about the use of student response systems in the classroom ( .  Student response systems (SRS) are similar to what the audience uses to vote, on television shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire?.  The concern is that these gadgets are just a waste of tax payers money and will be collecting dust once their novelty wears off.  This will be true if educators are adequately taught how to properly use these devices to improve student performance. 

From my two years experience with using ActiVote SRS by Promethean, I have learn a few tips and tricks.

1) Keep the results anonymous - this allows all students to answer without embarrassment.

2) Have strict rules about keeping quiet during voting questions - this prevents students from sharing answers and defeating the entire purpose of the SRS.

3) Use to gage student understanding - after a lesson use these tools to figure out if most students followed the lesson and to find out which students need extra help.

Student Response Systems can be a useful teaching tool if educators understand how they should properly utilize them in their classrooms. 


SMARTBoard in the Bathroom?

I received an interesting e-mail from a colleague the other day congratulating me on 6 Steps to Success in Teaching with TechnologyShe has been supply teaching in a small school in Ontario and after seeing the subject of my book, she mentioned that the school she was at did indeed have a digital whiteboard, but no one used it, and it was sitting in the schools bathroom collecting dust!

This is a prime example of what has happened in Britain and will most likely happen in North America, if we do not properly prepare our educators and our schools to handle these revolutionary teaching tools. 

6 Steps to Success is just a starting point to help teachers and schools to figure out how to properly integrate technology into our long term education plan.  If we want to succeed and use these tools to take our students to a whole new level in education, we must work together and decide how we are going to teach with technology effectively.