eLearning for young children

I came across a nice review of a few phonics sites. It was published in the Boston Globe.

Surfing the Net with kids: Phonics

By Barbara Feldman
October 2, 2009

Phonics is a widely used method of teaching children to read. It is based on connecting sounds of spoken English with the letters that represent those sounds. Today’s websites stand at the intersection of education and recreation, using games to reinforce phonetic concepts.

Fun Fonix


With phonics games, phonics worksheets, and reading and spelling games, Fun Fonix is, you guessed it, all about phonics! The activities and printables are organized into an introduction (to hard consonants and short vowels) and three printable books: short vowels, digraphs, and long vowels with a silent “e.’’ The e-books are supplemented with a worksheet maker that includes spelling, reading, word search, phonics mazes, bingo boards, and crossword puzzles.

GameGoo: Educational Games


Earobics is a K-3 “reading intervention’’ product from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. GameGoo is the free, online educational practice game component. For a list of educational standards addressed in each game (such as identifying the letters in words), follow the Home button to the Teachers & Parents link. The games are arranged on the menu from advanced (the pink row) to beginner (the blue row.) Unfortunately, a few of the beginner games didn’t load for me, and that’s why I didn’t award GameGoo the five-star rating they would otherwise deserve.

Sadlier-Oxford: Phonics Student Online Components


These phonics games from Sadlier-Oxford are organized by grade level for students from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade. To play the games, you’ll need to turn off your pop-up blocker for the site, because each game pops open a new browser window. Concepts reinforced in the games include short and long vowels, consonant blends, suffixes, dipthongs, contractions, and homonyms. For teachers and home-schoolers, there are professional development videos on how and why to teach phonics, discussed by literacy professionals in a round-table format.

SoftSchools.com: Phonics


Although lacking a pretty interface, SoftSchools has a nice collection of interactive phonics flashcards and phonics worksheet generators. The flashcards come in two flavors: uppercase and lowercase. On the first side of the virtual card is a three-letter word; click “flip’’ to see a picture of the object. The worksheet maker produces printable activity sheets for short vowels, long vowels, matching words, beginning sounds, and ending sounds.

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

Software to support eLearning: OpenEducationDisc

We live in financially challenging times. Fortunately there are people who don't allow themselves to be put down by the abscence of something as important as money. Today I am thankful for the people of OpenEducationDisc who has scoured the Internet for opensource (i.e. free) software that are of educational value, and then decided to make all of those titles available in the form of one download that you can burn on a DVD-ROM. They just saved me an enormous amount of time!

I have personally tested many of the applications in the list below, and they work just as well as their commercial alternatives. The only requirements are:

  1. You must be willing to try new things, and
  2. not give up on it if it doesn't work the same way as the commercial alternative.

The OpenEducationDisc is 100% free. There are no strings attached. You can give them a donation if you like the product but, although that would be nice, it is not necessary. Follow these steps to get a copy:

  1. You need a Windows computer with DVD writer, and software that can burn an iso image. If for some reason, your CD / DVD burning software doesn't recognize the iso file after you have downloaded the file in step 4 below, you will have to download and install InfraRecorder (a free, opensource program that burns CD's and DVD's): http://infrarecorder.org/?page_id=5.
  2. This is a rather large download, so if you don't have an unlimited broadband internet connection, I would not download the complete file. If you have a slow connection, or a cap on the amount of information you may download per month, please visit http://www.theopendisc.com/education/. You can visit the home page of each of the software titles from this page, and selectively  download the software you want.
  3. You need a download manager for a download of this size. I like the DownThemAll! add-on for Mozilla Firefox. So, if you have Mozilla Firefox, access the following link in Firefox and download the add-on: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/201. You will need to restart Firefox to make it work. Firefox will prompt you with a license agreement for DownThemAll!. It is safe to accept it. If for some reason you don't use Firefox (a discussion for another post), or add-ons are just too intimidating, you can download and install the Free Download Manager: http://www.freedownloadmanager.org/. I have used it extensively.
  4. After your download manager is installed, click on this link: http://downloads.sourceforge.net/opendisc/OpenEducationDisc09.07.iso.
  5. When the download is completed, you will need a blank DVD-ROM / DVD disk. The iso file that you have downloaded needs to be copied to an empty DVD-ROM / DVD disk to work. Afterwards you will use this DVD disk to install the programs to your computer.
  6. Double click on the OpenEducationDisc09.07.iso file, and allow your computer to burn the disk for you.
  7. Have fun with your new library of cool software!

The OpenEducationDisc contains the following software (taken from their website):

Office and Design

  • OpenOffice.org – Fully compatible office software for your school work
  • Dia – Make technical diagrams and flowcharts
  • Scribus – Create professional looking posters and magazines
  • GanttProject – Plan your school projects with this project management software
  • FreeMind – Collect your ideas with this mind mapping Software
  • PDF Creator – Make PDF documents from any program
  • Sumatra PDF – Read PDF files quickly and easily


  • Firefox – A safe, secure and fast web browser
  • Thunderbird – Manage your emails better than ever – Reclaim your inbox!
  • Pidgin – Talk to your friends whatever instant message client they use
  • Kompozer – Create web pages easily, without having to code
  • RSSOwl – Keep up with your favourite internet news feeds on your desktop

Art and Graphics

  • GIMP – Edit digital photos and create graphics
  • GIMP animation – Create animations
  • Inkscape – Make professional looking vector graphics
  • Pencil – Animate your own cartoons
  • Blender – 3D graphic modeling, animation, rendering and playback
  • Tuxpaint – Drawing program for children ages 3 to 12


  • VLC – Play music, videos and DVDs
  • Audacity – Record, edit and mix music
  • TuxGuitar – Compose your own music
  • Piano Booster – Teach yourself the piano
  • Avidemux – Edit movies and add special effects
  • Infra Recorder – Burn your own CDs and DVDs
  • CamStudio – Record your actions on a computer
  • Really Slick Screensavers – Great looking screensavers

Science and Mathematics

  • Nasa Worldwind - Discover the earth and other planets~
  • Greenfoot – Teach yourself how to program
  • GraphCalc – A graphical calculator
  • Guido Van Robot – Learn how computer programs work
  • CarMetal – Cool mathematical modelling tool
  • Maxima – University standard computer algebra system
  • Celestia – Explore the universe in three dimensions
  • Stellarium – A planetarium on your PC


  • FreeCiv - Control the world through diplomacy and conquest
  • FreeCol – Discover the ‘New World’ and build an empire
  • Numpty Physics – Solve puzzles using physics
  • TuxTyping 2 – Learn to type like a pro
  • Tux of Math Command – Test your mathematical skills
  • Winboard Chess – The classic game of chess


  • GTK+
  • 7zip
  • Abakt
  • Clamwin
  • HealthMonitor
  • Workrave

Advanced Internet

  • Httrack
  • Tight VNC
  • Filezilla
  • Azureus
  • WinSCP

In a future post I will chat a little about using opensource operating systems like Ubuntu Linux as a money-saving alternative for the computer workstations at your school. This will put an even larger library of free software at your disposal.

For His glory!

Why do I want to know about eLearning?

Image borrowed from universalsitestudio.comWhy do you want to know about eLearning? Because one of the components of eLearning is presently revolutionising the delivery of education: web-based distance education.

But I thought eLearning and online learning is the same thing? Well, it depends on who you ask. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that some people love and other people hate, has the following to say:

E-learning (or sometimes electronic learning or eLearning) is a term which is commonly used, but does not have a common definition[1]. Most frequently it seems to be used for web-based distance education, with no face-to-face interaction. However, also much broader definitions are common. For example, it may include all types of technology enhanced learning (TEL), where technology is used to support the learning process. Although pedagogy is usually not part of the definition, some authors do include it. For example in this definition, where e-learning is said to be: "pedagogy empowered by digital technology" [2]. It is important to realize that the term e-learning is ambiguous. It is nearly impossible to define what it is, as it has different meanings to different people [3]. Furthermore, it is often used interchangeably with various other related terms, such as distance learning, distributed learning, and electronic learning[4]. The meaning of the term also seems to be dependent on the context in which it is used. In companies, it often refers to the strategies that use the company network to deliver training courses to employees. Lately in most Universities, e-learning is used to define a specific mode to attend a course or programmes of study where the students rarely or never meet face-to-face, nor access on-campus educational facilities, because they study online.

So here is how I think we should define it. If we look at the e of eLearning, which stands for electronic, I think it would be responsible to say that eLearning is pedagogy empowered and enhanced by digital technology. I will use this definition as I keep on posting news and tips that relate to eLearning . . . watch this space . . .

Some research on web-based learning

I hope that some of you are considering giving eLearning an opportunity at your school. I think if you go to your principal or school board with some research to make your case, it may be easier to sell the idea. When I was completing my master's degree, I did a synthesis of the research specifically about web-based education. I have decided to share it with you. So, what follows might be a little dry. Pay special attention to the short section on the Y Generation.

Literature review

The way in which teachers in the United States are using the Internet is rapidly changing. The 2003 NetDay survey showed that students use the Internet mostly at home for gaming and communication (NetDay, 2004). In contrast, the 2005 NetDay survey showed that 90 percent of grade 6 – 12 students reported using the Internet at school, and about 60 percent used the Internet to contribute to the school’s website (NetDay, 2006). However, only 47 percent of the teachers reported using the Internet for teaching and instructional report, a category that included research, preparation, and presentation of lessons (NetDay, 2006). A recent press release of the results of the 2006 NetDay survey stated that students and parents still want a greater integration of technology in science and math education (NetDay, 2007). This lack of integration may be due to the fact that lots of teachers still feel unsure about how, or why, they have to use this technology in their teaching (King & Hildreth, 2001). Other teachers consider the time and effort required to integrate the Internet into their existing classroom practice too great a commitment (King & Hildreth, 2001). I had the opportunity to observe this response firsthand this year as I listened to our staff’s initial resistant comments to professional development sessions which aimed to equip them to communicate with parents and students via the Internet.

Teachers’ role

It should be obvious that teachers have an important role to play in the successful integration of the Internet into subject-specific teaching. However this integration process can put quite a demand on the teacher. Designing and implementing activities that use the Internet, call on teacher knowledge across a wide spectrum of expertise (Burniske and Monke; Edelson; Garner and Gillingham; Means et al.; Wallace; Kupperman, Krajcik and Soloway; as cited in Wallace, 2004). It requires specialized pedagogical content knowledge, which includes the usual teacher tasks such as planning, implementing, interacting, and assessing, as well as the less common tasks of identifying and selecting resources and materials, and knowing where to fit them into the curriculum (Wallace, 2004). Too often it is taken for granted that a teacher just knows what to do (Wallace, 2004). Having said that, it still is necessary for teachers to find and develop Internet resources because many interesting, and potentially useful, resources are not designed for schools (Wallace, 2004). This makes the preparation phase of teaching with the Internet quite crucial (Wallace, 2004).

There are a number of ways in which a teacher can influence positive learning outcomes in students who participate in online learning. Innovative instructors increase student satisfaction and learning, and when they interact with their students regularly it increases the students’ classroom participation (Finlay, Desmet, & Evans, 2004). These regular interactions should include regular opportunities for personal interaction with the teacher and with peers, and the availability of teachers via email (Riffell & Sibley, 2003). The teacher should always encourage the students to ask questions (Riffell & Sibley, 2003). Student satisfaction also increased when a learning environment was created in which the students knew what were expected of them but at the same time they had some autonomy (Finlay et al., 2004). It should be evident that teachers’ ability, personality, bias, methods, and numerous other variables all have an influence on students’ learning outcomes (Margrain as cited in Slykhuis & Park, 2006).

The Internet and the teaching of science

The Internet has many useful educational applications. It can be used to manipulate information, to facilitate communication, as an environment for creative expression, and as a medium for instructional delivery (Mioduser, Nachmias, Lahav, & Oren, 2000). In Haury and Milbourne’s study (cited in Lin, Cheng, Chang, & Hu, 2002) they mention that in science it can be used to facilitate productive interactions, to find new sources of information, to assist its users with finding solutions to problems, to help its users to stay informed with current developments, to extend classroom instruction by being a valuable tool for doing research, and to help its users to get involved in projects. The integration of information and communication technologies in the classroom should be done in such a way students will be able to learn the skills of communication, critical thinking, independence, and responsibility (Stiles as cited in Aivazidis, Lazaridou, & Hellden, 2006).

However, for web-based science to be meaningful, a science environment has to have the following features: data-driven investigation, modeling, collaboration, and scaffolding (Simons & Clark, 2005). Data-driven investigation engages students as researchers as they access raw data. Creating models of the data may help students to manipulate and make sense of the data. Collaboration is central to scientific inquiry as it helps individuals to activate prior knowledge and experience, and it assists them with the problem-solving process. Lastly, scaffolds are tools, strategies, or guides that assist students to gain higher levels of understanding, and the online environment lends itself to scaffolding (Simons & Clark, 2005).

The advantages of a web-based environment

It has been found that students who do Internet-based projects achieve better than students who received regular classroom teaching, and they may also demonstrate a significant increase in attitude scores (Aivazidis et al., 2006; Lin et al., 2002). Project-based learning is an active form of learning that involves two major components. Firstly, there is a main question or problem that gives a sense of direction to the activities, and secondly a final product that is the result of a number of intermediary steps (Lin et al., 2002).

Barak's (2004) study adds additional food for thought by suggesting that online, project-based learning is likely to increase motivation, promote deeper learning, and improve the communication between peers, in the process fostering a joint development of ideas. This is most likely to happen in a situation where the students are required to solve real-life problems in a team, when they are engaged in the design of a challenging project, and if they take responsibility for their work (Barak, 2004). Although my assignment did not quite fit all of these criteria, I found the results of this study encouraging.

A web-based course also has the potential to ‘help students gain a better understanding of subject-related concepts and improve their science process skills’ (Hsu, 2004). These skills include students’ capacity for thinking, analyzing, and constructing knowledge (Riedling as cited in Hsu, 2004). Modern Internet technology often makes the learning context more realistic and engaging through the use of multimedia (Hsu, 2004). If a web-based activity is engaging, it will encourage students to consult a variety of sources, allowing them to learn how to do meaningful classification, inference, hypothesis formulation, and hypothesis testing (Hsu, 2004), all important components of scientific thinking. In one study students felt that learning online made the course more interesting and they were ‘consciously aware that they learned more in the process’ (Seng & Mohamad, 2002). Students actually became more interested in their fields of study, and as a result were more likely to participate in class discussions (Seng & Mohamad, 2002).

Web-based learning provides an environment for the processes involved in cooperative learning such as searching for information, and analyzing and communicating ideas (Blumenfeld et al. as cited in Hsu, 2004). It gives the students adequate opportunities to interact with the teacher, and to ask questions in a non-threatening manner (King & Hildreth, 2001). In one study the teacher actually had more one-on-one contact with the students who were taking the online course than the students in the regular class due frequent email correspondence (King & Hildreth, 2001). The Internet has the potential to makes students’ thinking visible through tools such as discussion boards, and Internet technology allows its users to search the databases with these thoughts, making it possible to access varied information (Hsu, 2004). Bazley, Herklots, and Branson (2002) also believe that the online environment can help connect women to science since it provides young female scientists a safe environment in which they can ask questions and follow their interests as far as they wish.

Another advantage of web-based learning is that students can work at their own pace, in an environment and at a time that is convenient for them, and are therefore more likely to take part in their learning, leading to learning that may be more effective (O'Conell, King and Hildreth, and Moore and Miller as cited in Riffell & Sibley, 2003). It forces them to keep up with the material and to be active learners, it gives them the experience in using technology and finding appropriate information, and it offers them flexibility that is often absent from a more traditional lecture style course (King & Hildreth, 2001). Online learning definitely has the potential to accommodate individual learning needs and teaching styles (Seng & Mohamad, 2002; Hargis, 2001). With Internet technology’s ability to incorporate multimedia-media teaching techniques, manage group projects, and build effective learning communities, it shows great potential as a possible preferred teaching platform in the future (Seng & Mohamad, 2002).

Problems of the web-based environment

Some of the problems associated with Internet-based projects are the ‘unreliability of network connections’, websites with inappropriate content, integrating Internet resources into the curriculum successfully, students’ lack of appropriate search strategies, and students’ lack of comprehension of Internet technology mentioned in Jackson et al.’s study (as cited Lin et al., 2002). According to Moore, Jensen, and Hatch (as cited in Riffell & Sibley, 2003), another drawback of online instruction is that it may decrease or eliminate the interaction between the students in the course, as well as the communication between the students and the instructor. Hargis (2001) points out that there is the danger of an information overload when using the Internet, it lacks an instructional format, it is a challenge to identify the ‘necessary skills and attitudes to enable users to critically evaluate and use’ the Internet as a resource, and it is also a challenge to design and evaluate different learning formats effectively. According to Hsu (2004) people who are new to the Internet find it difficult to learn cooperatively and efficiently. It is evident that the mere presence of technology in the classroom does not guarantee positive learning outcomes (Barak, 2004).

The Internet and Generation Y

In an insightful article by Weiler (2005) she commented on Generation Y students’ information-seeking behavior based on learning theory. Generation Y students were born between 1980 and 1994 (Weiler, 2005). They are also sometimes referred to as the Net Generation (Brown, 2005). Her findings support the construction of a website as a viable method to achieve positive learning outcomes. Generation Y students are primarily visual learners, and with the Internet being a visual medium, it will benefit this learning preference. Hands-on activities should be directly related to a specific task that a Generation Y student perceives as a need. In this assignment the students picked an organism they wanted to study. Students are at various levels of cognitive development which should encourage teachers to use questioning, discussion, and hands-on activities instead of lecturing as the method of instruction. Once again this assignment satisfies this finding. Students are very concerned about saving time, so I should help them with their time management. Students should not be expected to be able to seek information with high levels of reflective and critical thinking. I should be patient with my students to develop these skills if I find them lacking.

Please remember to cite me if you decide to use it . . . Wink


Aivazidis, C., Lazaridou, M., & Hellden, G.F. (2006). A comparison between a traditional and online environmental educational program. Journal of Environmental Education, 37(4), 45-54.

Barak, M. (2004). The use of computers in technological studies: Significant learning or superficial activity? Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 23(4), 329-346.

Bazley, M., Herklots, L., & Branson, L. (2002). Using the internet to make physics connect. Physics Education, 37(2), 118-121.

Brown, M. (2005). Learning Spaces. In Educating the Net Generation (chap. 12). Retrieved April 12, 2007, from http://www.educause.edu/EducatingtheNetGeneration/5989

Eagleton, M.B., & Hamilton, M.D. (2001). New genres in literacy: Classroom webzine projects. The NERA Journal, 37(3), 32-40.

Finlay, W., Desmet, C., & Evans, L. (2004). Is it the technology or the teacher? A comparison of online and traditional English composition classes. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 31(2), 163-180.

Hargis, J. (2001). Can students learn science using the internet? Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 33(4).

Hsu, Y. (2004). Using the internet to develop students' capacity for scientific inquiry. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 31(2), 137-161.

Kearsley, G. (2007). Multiple Intelligences (H. Gardner). Retrieved April 12, 2007, from http://tip.psychology.org/gardner.html

King, P., & Hildreth, D. (2001). Internet courses: Are they worth the effort? Journal of College Science Teaching, 31(2), 112-115.

Lin, C., Cheng, Y., Chang, Y., & Hu, R. (2002). The use of Internet-based learning in biology. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 39(3), 237-242.

Maxwell, R. (1996). Writing Across the Curriculum in Middle and High Schools. New Jersey: Allyn & Bacon.

Mills, G.E. (2003). Action Research: A Guide for the Teacher Researcher (Second Edition). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Mioduser, D., Nachmias, R., Lahav, O., & Oren, A. (2000). Web-based learning environments: Current pedagogical and technological state. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33(1), 55-76.

NCREL (Ed.). (1995). Metacognition. Retrieved April 12, 2007, from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/students/learning/lr1metn.htm

NetDay. (2004). Voices and views of today's tech-savvy students. Retrieved April 11, 2007, from http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/pdfs/VOICES%20AND%20VIEWS%20final.pdf

NetDay. (2006). Our voices, our future: student and teacher views on science, technology, and education. Retrieved April 11, 2007, from http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/pdfs/SpeakUpReport_05.pdf

NetDay. (2007). Speak Up 2006 survey shows that students and parents want greater integration of technology in science and math courses. Retrieved April 11, 2007, from http://www.tomorrow.org/docs/Press%20Release%20032107.pdf

Oblinger, D.G., & Oblinger, J.L. (Eds.). (2005). Educating the Net Generation. Retrieved April 12, 2007, from http://www.educause.edu/EducatingtheNetGeneration/5989

Riffell, S.K., & Sibley, D.H. (2003). Learning online: Student perceptions of a hybrid learning format. Journal of College Science Teaching, 32(6), 394-399.

Ruthven, K., Hennessy, S., & Deaney, R. (2005). Incorporating internet resources into classroom practice: Pedagogical perspectives and strategies of secondary-school subject teachers. Computers and Education, 44(1), 1-34.

Seng, L., & Mohamad, F.S. (2002). Online learning: Is it meant for science courses? Internet and Higher Education, 5(2), 109-118.

Simons, K., & Clark, D. (2005). Supporting inquiry in science classrooms with the web. Computers in the Schools, 21(3-4), 23-26.

Slykhuis, D., & Park, J. (2006). Correlates of achievement with online and classroom-based MBL physics activities. Journal of Mathematics and Science Teaching, 25(2), 147-163.

UCCASS. (2005). Unit Command Climate Assessment and Survey System. Retrieved April 13, 2007, from http://www.bigredspark.com/survey.html

Wallace, R.M. (2004). A framework for understanding teaching with the internet. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 447-488.Weiler, A. (2005). Information-seeking behavior in Generation Y students: Motivation, critical thinking, and learning theory. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31(1), 46-53.

RSS Feeds

 You may have noticed that this website has the following symbol in different places.  This is what is known as RSS feeds.  


What is an RSS Feed and how can I use it...?

An RSS Feed icon.
An RSS Feed icon.


An RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) brings any changes or newly generated content on a website or blog to your attention, without you having to go to the website to see if changes have happened. Watch the video bellow to see how they work.

Office Outlook 2007 allows RSS feeds to come dirtectly to your Outlook Account


  1. Right-click on the RSS Feed link (look for the orange icon above), and then click [Copy Shortcut].
  2. In Outlook 2007, in the Navigation Pane, right-click the [RSS Feeds] folder,
  3. and then click [Add a New RSS Feed].
  4. Press CTRL-V to paste the RSS Feed Uniform Resource Locator (URL) : eg: http://www.microsoft.com/ into the New RSS Feeddialog box, and
  5. then click [Add].

If you still have questions click on the link below to complete Microsoft's Training, it takes about 20 minutes.
How to set up RSS Feeds in Outlook

If you have a google account go to reader.google.com and follow the instructions to set up a feed from the TVNZ.co.nz website.


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iBooks in the iBookstore

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  • READ THIS BEFORE YOU GIVE YOUR CHAILD A DEVICE FOR CHRISTMAS.Finally a book to help parents who have children with devices at home!  Keeping Your Child/Teen Safe in the Online Jungle contains a buffet of ideas for parents in the 21st century.  Chapters include:~ Ideas for managing devices~ Internet monitoring and filtering options~ Helpful websites~ Managing iPads ~ Family sharing  
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  • Measured Success explores the need to gather evidence through a means such as statistical analysis when implementing change.  This book looks particularly for ways to gather evidence for successful BYOD and iPad initiatives in education.  Inform your community with sound and meaningful data, then go and tell your story.  A must have for implementing change.One Best Thing.  
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  • Hacking at Trees with Chainsaws explores the most fundamental flaws with devices in education.  Flaws that ultimately could end up jeopardising the use of devices in education.  This book has three objectives: 1. To explore what is now possible in education because of new tools 2. To draw attention to the risk of implementing an education programme without consideration of how the tools can be used 3. To provide some frameworks help teachers, school leaders and district supervisors integrate devices in a meaningfully way that will add value to learning.   With devices in education it is not what you have that counts, it is how you use I.T. that counts.
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