Author Archives: Mathew

Low Level Tech/Higher Level Thinking

Years ago, I created a hierarchy to explain my thinking around higher level usage of technology.  Since then, Common Core standards have been adopted and the SAMR model has risen to popularity.  I still use my hierarchy.

Nevertheless, through my work in supporting 136 schools with their instructional technology needs, I have found it necessary to explain the usage of classroom technology in a new way.


I broke down technology tools in terms of how much technical knowledge and effort they require (Higher Tech Effort) and how much student thinking they normally require.  (Of course, the teacher determines the level of thinking, not the tool but, by and large, I do believe some tools have a limit to the amount of thinking they can generate in students.)

In the top left (Higher Tech Effort/Higher Level Thinking) are tools that require technical knowledge on the part of the teacher but inspire greater thinking in students.  Although these tools benefit students, I wouldn’t start there if you are just beginning to integrate technology.

On the top right (Lower Tech Effort/Higher Level Thinking) are tools that can generate higher level thinking (when used by students) and require very little technical knowledge to get started.  Tools in this quadrant would be easy to get going and produce the best gains in student achievement because of the amount of thinking they require.

Tools on the bottom left (Higher Tech Effort/Low Level Thinking) are not easy to implement on the teacher’s part and they generally inspire low levels of thinking on the part of students (substitution on the SAMR model).

On the bottom right (Low Tech Effort/Lower Level Thinking) are digital flashcard apps.  I would include in this quadrant nearly every pre-boxed program (IXL, Accelerated Reader, Brainpop, ST Math, etc).  These tools are easy to implement but give very little gain in terms of student achievement.  To put it another way, it’s not worth the price of a computer if you never leave this quadrant.

From my work in the field, the tools in the bottom two quadrants “Lower Level Thinking” are by far the most popular.  This suggests that it’s not that most teachers are uncomfortable with using technology, most are uncomfortable with thinking.  It’s never about the technology.

iTunes U Courses on Innovation and Common Core

I’ve authored two iTunes U courses which you’re welcome to subscribe to.

Innovation and Communication is a course for school leaders on how to start a movement, support teachers, and lead by example.

Technology in the Common Core is a course on how to integrate technology into the teaching of the Common Core.

As with all iTunes U courses, you must have an iPad to view.

If You’re Dying by Powerpoint Don’t Try Prezi

I’m happy that many educators outside of the blogosphere are beginning to recognize that sitting power points that are chock full of bullet points are not the way they want to engage and be engaged.  However, I believe if they think the answer is to switch from Powerpoint to Prezi, Haiku, or any other brand of slide deck they might need to ask themselves what the problem with powerpoint is.

1.  Powerpoint is presentation software, that is to say it is intended to support a speaker when delivering a speech.  If you are using powerpoint as a substitute for a web site, a movie, or a student portfolio  or anything that does not require a speaker you are likely using it wrong.  Words come from the speaker, images when they support what the speaker is saying, can be used in the powerpoint.

2.  If Powerpoints are ineffective in supporting a speaker’s presentation, we need to teach some presentation basics, not necessarily pick up a new tool (though I prefer Keynote).

If we don’t teach students to be effective communicators, they will communicate ineffectively no matter what tool they’re using.

Further reading/watching:
Don McMillan’s “Death by Powerpoint“, Scott Elias’s Taking Your Slidedeck to the Next Level, and Dan Meyer’s “Powerpoint: Do No Harm.

Using Google News to Uncover Primary Source Documents

Update:  This was cool while it lasted but Google has apparently removed this functionality from their news search.  Supposedly there’s another way to get it to work but it hasn’t worked for me.

This is a cool tool for finding archived newspapers from at least one hundred years ago via a Google news search.  Particularly, as examining primary source documents can be an effective component of Common Core instruction, I hope you’ll find this useful.

1.  Visit

2. Enter a search time in the search box.

3.  Click the triangle at the end of the search box to bring up the advanced search.  (If you don’t see the triangle, your page hasn’t loaded completely.  Refreshing the page sometimes fixes the problem.).

4.  Scroll down to date range and select “specified dates”.  Then enter dates.  You can choose specific dates (month/day) or years.  I chose to search from 1910-1920.

5.  After hitting the return key or clicking on the search button you will be presented with a page of results from the actual date range you specified.

6.  After choosing one of the links you can move around the document from the navigation pane on the right.

Instructional Uses

To get beyond simple recall of historical events, students can look at historical events from different perspectives.  As our perception of events changes over time, it’s interesting to track how people felt about an event while it was happening.


Four Steps for Troubleshooting iOS Devices (Updated)

I’m updating my steps for updating iOS devices to include the new process of force-quitting apps in iOS 7.

There’s not too much you can do to fix a problem when your iPad or iPhone stops working…that’s the good news.  There’s just a few things you can try and these usually work.  Try each of these one at a time and see if one of them will fix your problem.


1.  Update your apps.

2.  Force quit the app.

In iOS 6:  Double-click on the home button.  Find the problematic app on the bottom of your screen where it shows recently used apps. Press and hold on the app icon until it wiggles.  Click on the red circle with a minus sign.  Your app icon goes away.

In iOS 7:  Double-click on the home button.  Find the problematic app image and swipe up on it to flick it away.

When I’ve used this successfully: iMovie was crashing.  I forced it to quit and then it worked fine.

2.  Restart the device.  You don’t normally need to turn off your device.  However, if you’re having problems, it’s a good idea to do so.  Press and hold the power button on the top right of the device until you see “Slide to power off” on your screen.  Now, swipe to power off the device.  Then press the power button to turn the device on.

When I’ve used this successfully: A strange fluttering was showing up on the screen in all apps and on the home screen.  I restarted and problem went away.

3.  Delete the app and reinstall (use this for app-specific problems).  Press and hold on the app icon on the home screen until it wiggles.  Press the red circle.  The app will be deleted after you confirm.  This sometimes might also delete your data for that app so only try this when you have to.  Then go to the iTunes store and download the app again.  You will not be charged twice if you are using the correct account.

4.  Restore the device.  This wipes out everything and is done by hooking up the device to iTunes.  I’d only use this if a bunch of apps are giving you problems as it’s a headache having to set up all your apps again.

If you have any other troubleshooting steps, please add them below.