Thinking OUTSIDE the Box

Image result for ipads in outdoor educationImage result for ipads in outdoor educationImage result for ipads in outdoor education

Technology in Outdoor education 

In my investigation about technology in the classroom I have been focusing more on technology in the classroom and some programs that are used and are helpful for communication and different ways to learn through technology. This week I decided to think outside the box and look into one of my passions, which is outdoor education and how technology can accompany it. 

Firstly, technology speaks for itself because it is convenient. It all depends on perspective if we think it is good or bad. Sure there are some things that make people think that it is bad (ex. too much screen time, kids are on their phone too much, playing games). But on the flip side there are some positives as well (ex. sources of communication, differentiation for students, learning through games to spark the students interests). 

We typically think of technology as cell phones, laptops, iPads, and that is where the “problem” is with too much screen time. If we think about it, we use technology more than we think because we are so used to it. (ex. computerized banking at the grocery store, the automatic doors to and from the store, central heating, power windows in our cars, coffee maker, etc.). The world is constantly changing and we are stepping towards technology more and more each day. 

In outdoor education, we think that we are stepping outside and away from modern urban lifestyles and to connect with nature. In the article that I read they are comparing traditional and modern technologies in outdoor education. The traditional technologies refer to things made out of natural materials, where as modern technology is referred to something that is made synthetically.  

It is said that “we tend to understand traditional technology for the outdoors as that which helps the user of the technology to establish a certain mind set or a state of being” (Cuthbertson. B et al, 135). this type of technology, these pieces of equipment are used to enjoy the free-nature and the simplicity of living. 

On the other hand, modern technology is used to improve or reach a higher accomplishment where technology is needed. For example climbing ropes are used to help improve rock climbing and also is used for safety. These types of technologies have made it comfortable to be in the outdoors. 

Now that we have touched on those modern and traditional technologies, I am now going to look into digital technologies in outdoor education. In a case study, there were studies done on 183 students through the ages of  7-14. They were tested on their feelings about technology in an environmental observation. The classes that were observed were taken outside to make observations about the nature. They were split into two groups. They were observing their surroundings, specifically leaves. One group was using technology, specifically digital microscopes, which enabled them to be able to see all the bumps, veins, and colours. The other group was using a hand lens. The next activity they did was a journal session. The students wrote down what they noticed about the leaves, they also drew pictures. After they had finished their journal writing the two groups switched the microscopes and magnifying glass. 

In conclusion, the students that participated with the digital microscope felt more confident and had a positive attitude towards technology. It helped them better understand and observe the leaves. 

I also found a really informative video from a group of educators in Australia. They have been incorporating technology into their outdoor education. They are contacted through classroom teachers, where they will then video conference the class to inform them with what they will be doing. 

They used different sorts of technology for the students to deepen their learning:

They used iPads for a bunch of different activities.They used a program called Digital Woodlands where they take the iPads outside and take photos to be able to tell a story. The outdoor educator said that a walk that would usually take a class 10 minutes, takes them and hour and a half because the students are climbing, crawling, and trying to capture as many interesting things as they possibly can. This allows the students to be more observant. They get to be creative in nature, analyzing and observing. It gives them a great opportunity to wander and they are proud of their work that they have done with their digital story. The students also had been taught some photographing techniques before this activity. 

iPads can also be used to make iMovies, which is easy on the iPad for children. 

Another application is called “Explore Everything”. It is used for the students to look for evidence in their pictures that they have taken and make a voice recording to explain what they observed. 

Math is another subject that can be explored outdoors. One class was measuring the height of trees. The students took videos of themselves explaining what they were doing and what methods they were using. They got to talk the way they wanted in their own words, which for students is important. The teachers also use these videos as a form of formative assessment. 

The outdoor educators set up an eco-mystery, where the students had to investigate why a frog had died. They used data loggers to test the temperature and humidity and had to investigate the area to see if that would have been a reason for the death of the frog. The students continued with the data loggers and observed the land to see if certain species could survive there. They also used Wildlife cameras (hunting cameras) to try to capture pictures of different species in different areas. When they captured a picture of an animal, the outdoor educators had mentioned how excited the students were. They also set up and used GoPro’s in their teachings. 

Another outdoor educator that worked with special needs students said that technology helped the students largely. She video conferenced with students to ensure them what they would be doing so they could have an idea and prepare themselves. She had also mentioned another student who was very terrified of birds, but when she showed a video to that student of the type of birds they would be interacting with, the student enjoyed the videos, so it helped that student prepare himself and get familiar. 

I really enjoyed this video and found it informative. I would highly recommend watching it if you are interested in incorporating technology in outdoor education. One good point that the was brought up is that most kids already know how to use iPads from prior knowledge. I also understand that a school might be limited to the amount of technology that can be used. iPads have been common in schools and there were some great ideas on how to use them. 

I think that students should be able to enjoy the outdoors without digital technology in “free time”. Of course each age group is going to be different with using technology outdoors. As the students get older there are ways that we can incorporate digital technology into outdoor education. I think that if a student was doing an inquiry project on something outdoors (ex. trees) I think it would be very neat for students to be able to take videos of different types of trees and incorporate those clips into a iMovie. It is another way to show their learning from the outdoors to indoors (of course for intermediate students). I think that there is something to be said about being able to enjoy the moment when outdoors, for example, when people are on vacation they want to enjoy the scenery without looking at it through their phone taking pictures and videos the whole time. I think that we need to give the students time to explore without technology but I think that it will be a very helpful tool to use.

  • Cuthbertson, B., Socha, T. L., & Potter, T. G. (2004). The double-edged sword: Critical reflections on traditional and modern technology in outdoor education. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 4(2), 133-144. doi:10.1080/14729670485200491
  • Hougham, R. J., Nutter, M., & Graham, C. (2018). Bridging natural and digital domains: Attitudes, confidence, and interest in using technology to learn outdoors. Journal of Experiential Education, 41(2), 154-169. doi:10.1177/1053825917751203
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Feedback and Reporting Language

One thing that is very important for the implementation of Formative Assessment, is the language you use to report your feedback to the students. To this end I wanted to look into some effective language use to communicate feedback.

One really important point that I have seen discussed in numerous different places, is effective and proper use of praise. Historically, praise was often used to uplift a student on their achievements and show them the accurately completed their goals. This lead to an interesting problem, in which students began to care a lot more about the receiving praise, than growing and learning. Students who are told “Wow good job, you are so smart”, are unlikely to continue trying to solve more difficult problems for fear of failure. This is called a Performance Avoidance Mindset. These are students who perform exclusively for extrinsic motivation; they want to be told they are smart, again and again. If they are forced to work hard on something in order to complete it, and do not receive the praise they were expecting or hoping for, they are unlikely to try again. And that makes sense. It also makes sense that if you are giving Assessment OF Learning, it is very likely you will give this kind of feedback; the student either did well or poorly, nothing else matters.

However, if you instead say “Wow great effort, you worked so hard and this [insert specific example] part of your assignment was really great because of [insert specific reason]”, you are going to get a very different response from your student. This response is doing two very important things differently that the first example. One is very obvious, and that is the specificity of the feedback. Your assessment is showing that you really focused on something the student did well. The student can tell that you really cared about their efforts. And on the topic of effort, that is the second great part of this feedback. The emphasis on praise of effort over achievement has been shown to increase further growth and encourage a Growth Mindset, or a Mastery Approach Mindset. These students are highly likely to try something more difficult, or beyond their immediate skill level because they believe it really doesn’t matter whether or not they succeed, what matters is that they try their best and work hard.

Of course this is not enough and it is important to inform students of how they can improve. At this point though, when you have a student who is already in the mindset of being prepared to learn and improve, any constructive feedback you give is more likely to be accepted as constructive and to reflect on it to improve.

This is just one example of a way to use appropriate language for student feedback. There are many many things to remember when reporting to students.

Here are a few links to sites that discuss this problem:

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New Homework Policy

The inspiration I had for my blog topic actually came from a post that I saw on Facebook a couple months ago. It was a picture that I saw that had been sent home with a student in elementary school. This is the letter:

I found this letter extremely interesting and I really liked the idea of it. I do however understand that lots of parents work away and some children go to different homes every night, so this is not always a possibility. However, I do believe that parents or guardians can have a major impact on how their child does in school, and the habits that they practice at home are extremely important to a child’s success. The difference between home lives from this year’s practicum class and last year’s is quite drastic. I knew that several students in my class didn’t come from homes with many rules. For example, lots of them were able to stay up until late hours of night playing video games, which greatly affected how they behaved and performed at school the next day. From my own personal observations, I have found that getting a good nights sleep and a good meal is essential to a child’s performance and engagement inside the classroom.

I’m not saying that all children must do these things in order to do well in school because that is simply not the case. However, I think that what they do outside the classroom really affects how several children do in school, and also in their own physical and mental health.

In the letter, the teacher talks about:

Eating dinner as a family
Reading together
Playing outside
Getting your child into bed early.

I am going to research these 4 things to see if they really do have an affect on student success:

Growing up, I ate dinner with my family almost every night. This was a way for us to talk about our days, and spend time together. I never realized how much this affected me in the long run, but it really did. Even as an adult, eating meals with other people is something that I cherish, and truly believe can help foster social skills and improve mental health.
From a Science Daily Article focusing on young children in Quebec, “When the family meal environment quality was better at age 6…these children seemed to have more social skills, and they were less likely to self-report being physically aggressive, oppositional or delinquent at age 10.”
“The presence of parents during mealtimes likely provides young children with firsthand social interaction, discussions of social issues and day-to-day concerns and vicarious learning of prosocial interactions in a familiar and emotionally secure setting. Experiencing positive forms of communication may likely help the child engage in better communication skills with people outside of the family unit.”

By this point in our degree, we should all know how reading everyday can truly benefit children. However, reading with parents or guardians from a young age can affect many skills that a child uses in school “Benefits of shared reading include facilitating enriched language exposure, fostering the development of listening skills, spelling, reading comprehension and vocabulary, and establishing essential foundational literacy skills. They are also valued as a shared social opportunity between parents and their children to foster positive attitudes toward reading.”

Physical activity is also super important for children, and playing outside every day can promote social skills, increase attention span, reduces stress, and increases vitamin D levels. Although these may not directly correlate with school engagement and performance, it is pretty clear to me that this might impact how they do.

Finally, how does getting your child to bed early affect how they do in school? I looked at an article comparing sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents. “Sleep is a primary aspect of adolescent development. The way adolescents sleep critically influences their ability to think, behave, and feel during daytime hours.”

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Assessment FOR Learning and Assessment OF Learning

One of the most important points in the introduction of Formative assessment was its evolution from what came before it. For many years education was run off a system of Summative Assessment.

Summative Assessment is also known as Assessment OF Learning. This is a pretty easy way of undertanding what Summative assessment is. It is generally a way of assessing student learning through their final assignments of tests. This is a very useful technique is a few ways. It is absolutely useful when making a final decision of whether or not a student has accomplished a goal.

However, after years of exclusively assessing student work in this way, it became clear that this was not optimal. The main problem with Summative Assessment is that there is very minimal constructive feedback throughout the learning. As a result, by the time students receive their feedback, there is no room or time to improve on what they have been told. If the term/year is over, how as students supposed to take their feedback and learn from it?

That is where Formative Assessment comes in. A second way of thinking about Formative Assessment is as Assessment FOR Learning. Again, this name says a lot. It was created specifically with the goal of filling in the holes that Summative Assessment left, i.e. assessing and providing feedback for students with the intention of allowing them to learn from and improve on their work and learning.

This is a picture from the book “Classroom Assessment for Student Learning” by Rick Stiggins, Judith Arter, and Jan and Steve Chappuis. It is a table showing the differences between Assessment FOR Learning and Assessment OF Learning.


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The Goal is a Love for Reading

Reading assessment tools are only one piece of the puzzle and we need to treat the assigned levels in a way that reflects that. The reading assessment tool can only tell us what level a student is at on one day at one time with one book. There is so much more to a reader than what you can gather from one reading assessment. We can’t let their assigned level limit them.

Take time to listen to them read the book that they can’t put down, the book that’s about their favourite video game, or a book they find hilarious. Listen for the word patterns they struggle with, ask them genuine questions about the book and plan your instruction around moving them forward.

Give them time to find these books and texts that spark a love for reading. Read aloud to them. Model how much you love reading. Surround them with good books and teach them that reading everywhere and can take place anywhere.

“Reading is like bathing, you have to do it every day. You can’t just take four showers on Monday and be good for the week”

–Jen Jones

Remember that reading can happen everywhere and doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Reading is not limited to leveled books or books at all. It’s okay if they have read the same book 4 times, they’re building confidence. It’s okay if they’re choosing to read a book that you think is above their level, they’re exposing themselves to words they’ve never seen before and making meaning of what they can read. Let them read without limiting them.

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What to Do When a Student is Being Physical

Originally, I was going to write my 4th blog post about mental disabilities. I instead decided to put mental disabilities with illnesses in order to inquire about what to do when  student is being physically violent.

Restraint: I personally have seen during my practicum students that are a physical danger to themselves and others be restrained. My question is, it that okay? We are often told that we are to not touch a child in any circumstance as a pre-service teacher, even if it’s given your 5 year old student a hug back. So what should we do when a student is running into on-coming traffic or is about to physically harm another student? Do we have the right as teachers to restrain a child in those circumstances? According to the Criminal Code of Canada we are protected under the supreme court to restrain a child if they are presenting themselves as a danger:

Section 43 of the Criminal Code says:

Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.

However, are there regulations to this according to the Ministry of Education in British Columbia? Here is the document answering that question:

According to this guideline “physical restraint and seclusion are used only in exceptional circumstances where a student is in imminent danger of causing harm to self or others”. It is important to note that if you have a student in your classroom that is at high risk of frequently being dangerous (ex: a student accompanied with a mental health issue that I have examined in my previous posts) that it is “expected to have been trained in crisis intervention and the safe use of physical restraint and seclusion”. Children that are frequently dangerous are also expected to be supported by  “positive behaviour supports and interventions, behaviour plans, emergency or safety plans, and other plans to prevent and de-escalate potentially unsafe situations”.

Physical restraint and/or seclusion should always be the very last resort. There are other strategies that we can use as educators to create a safe environment and de-escalate the situation. These strategies consist of:

-Reducing access to victims of the student with active aggression

-Avoid confrontation with the aggressor

-Use non-verbal cues when communicating with student like the universal signs for  stop, sit, stand, or walk

-Intervene as soon as you notice agressive behaviour

-Communicate expectations

-Wait for help and ignore student

-Provide other options like having the student go for a walk

Resource for this info:

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Mental Health Issues

Mental health plays a huge factor in children’s aggression. Mental health issues can cause a deficit or eradication of the impulse control which prevents a child from understanding when their anger is getting out of hand. Some mental health issues that may cause aggression with links to better understand what the issue is and possible treatments are:

-Bipolar Disorder

-Frontal-lobe Damage



-Oppositional Defiant Disorder

-Conduct Disorder

-Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder


-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (view my previous blog on complex trauma)

-Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

What to do when student is being actively aggressive?

As we can see, there is a large spectrum of possible reasons as to why a student may be aggressive. What we can do as educators to help a student is being aggressive is understanding what is an appropriate reaction to a mental health issue based aggression. However, there are overall strategies that teachers can use to aid children with managing their anger. Educators need to be assertive and calm when confronting a student experiencing aggression. Teachers can also create environment changes in their classrooms to aid with anger management. The environmental changes can be (but are not limited to) making a cool down area, keep possible weapons like scissors in a teacher-controlled area, post classroom expectations on the wall, teach class evacuation protocol and create a location for evacuation, provide calming tools like headphones or fidget toys, and use a strategical student seating plan to keep designated student in close proximity.



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Benefits of mindfulness

Cognitive benefits: executive function is a set of mental skills that constitutes attention, switching focus, planning, organizing and remembering details. Research shows improvements in behavioural regulation and metacognition.

Social benefits: deficits and excesses in social behaviour can affect learning, understanding, and the classroom climate. Mindfulness incorporated into the classroom can lead to better participation in activities and foster care and respect for others.

Emotional benefits: emotional problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression can affect self-esteem, performance, and social interaction in students. Recent findings suggest mindfulness practice gives the ability to manage stress. A study by Schonert-Reichl and his colleagues, mindfulness practice leads to higher scores on self-report measures of optimism and positive emotions in elementary school students.

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so…what did we learn??

hi hello, welcome to the final blog post. at last!

i feel like this has been a long journey, but lbr, a lot of us are posting these frantically to hit that 4 post 10 comment minimum requirement!!! don’t be ashamed, it was bound to happen from the start, no matter how much prompting was given for us to start earlier. we made it.

anyway, here’s a funny video that is vaguely about critical thinking without being very serious or accurate, it’s just plain entertaining, and it’ll have you going “MEEEEE” at multiple points, so that’s fun.

so…what did we learn? not from the video, but like, the other blog posts in general. and even better, how can we apply this into our teaching practice? here i have some fun, quick, and easy steps to start teaching critical thinking.

  1. use think-alouds and questioning in your teaching
    •  just like the previous post with the woman reading aloud to her class, make short stops at different intervals to remind students to be thinking about the story in a critical way—in this case, by making questions. even prompting questions or deeper thinking by asking those through provoking questions aloud while you’re reading can help get the gears in motion. the more questioning we encourage, the more critical thinking skills are accessible.
  2. get creative with your check for understanding
    • my sponsor teacher does this funny thing where he randomly (but purposely) says the wrong thing—like substituting apple for orange—in a repeated instruction. that’s his quick and easy way of checking for understanding. lots of kids are super quick and responsive to things like this, the sillier the better. of course, this might not work in a really young class or a much older group, but i think the sweet spot sits between grades 2-5. it’s fun and easy and allows students who aren’t catching those changes to start to watch out for them, thus engaging them in listening. alternatively, it inadvertently forces kids to do that quick “wait…does that make sense?” check in their own heads. this leads to questions or, for more advanced critical thinkers, coming to a solution in a logical order.
  3.  use guided inquiry to challenge students perceptions
    • things like mystery doug/mystery science are great examples of guided inquiry lessons that scaffold and engage students while also presenting them with inquiry-based learning that can challenge common perceptions kids may subscribe to. presenting students with commonly believed myths or ideas and then providing them with the evidence and tools to disprove this can help students naturally end up at these conclusions themselves. instead of telling students that light travels in a linear path, have them explore that idea and come to that conclusion themselves. it’s far more engaging and far more interesting.
  4. in the vice versa of the previous, present students with the challenge of disproving perceptions
    • one example of this is having students work in pairs or groups to make a project for why recess shouldn’t be banned in schools, or doing an “adults for the day” exercise where students are tasked with planning out their ideal day as an adult and then play a “LIFE”-esque game where students are presented with challenges and circumstances that get in the way of doing whatever they want. these types of activities force students to think critically about what they value and what they already know, as well as encouraging students to search outside of their lived experience and consider the perspective or circumstance of others. these activities are just some examples of what are, basically, endless possibilities!!!
  5. start early!!!!
    • honestly, this one seems pretty self-explanatory. start early! kids as young as three can start thinking critically, obviously in a different capacity to that of a thirteen year old but hey! still valid. critical thinking skills are learned, nurtured, and need time to develop properly. we can’t expect to start teaching critical thinking one day and have it stick from then on. just like reading, writing, math, etcetera, it! needs! time!!

so, there. we have come to the end. hopefully this has been helpful or interesting or something. i’ve learned a lot, mostly that four blog posts is a lot more than i think it is.

thanks for tuning in amigos. auf wiedersehen!


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STEAM and Assessment

Hello and happy Halloween,

For my final blog post I will be focusing on STEAM and assessment. STEAM is often times interactive and hands on which is quite different from the traditional teaching model, as a result, educators must adapt their method of assessment.

After researching different ways to effectively assess STEAM activities I realised there is not one clear answer. In fact, there are a variety of methods one can use to assess students in STEAM, and no one method is superior to another. Students can utilise technology to document their own work, for example, taking pictures of their creations. Students can also sketch their observations rather than follow a traditional writing model. There is truly an extraordinary amount of options for STEAM assessment.

This diversity in methods of assessment also allows teachers to differentiate between students. For example, students who are unable to write about their creations, may be able to sketch them much more effectively. This allows students to focus on their project rather than stress about their writing.

Attached is an interesting article outlining different assessment practices in regards to STEAM projects.

How to Grade STEM Projects

Thanks for your time!

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