ET1 Information and Communication Technologies

Information and Communication Technologies

"Do not confine your children to your own learning for they were born in another time." 

- Hebrew Proverb

Teachers today are faced with a bewildering array of websites, apps, hardware and software that was designed or repurposed for use in education. Staying up to date with the rapid advance of educational technologies is difficult, but technology itself can assist. Social media; the rise of curation - building collections of resources and then categorising and sharing these collections with others; learning networks; online tutorials; the explosion in video tutorials; online professional development; and the increasingly intuitive nature of software and hardware resulting from the consumerisation of digital technologies - all contribute to making the task of staying up to date with educational technologies easier.

While engaging with all possible educational technologies is now impossible, teachers are expected to be competent in using a wide range of technologies that enhance their teaching and students learning. As with all literacies, it is not acceptable to model ignorance and disengagement with digital technologies, but neither is it a requirement to be all knowing. A balance, modeling an effective and engaged learner, acknowledging gaps, and demonstrating to students the joy of learning opportunities, is the reality of teaching today,

Dr Jason Zagami


iBook Version - iPad only (70MB)


Powerpoint / Keynote

Powerpoint (Microsoft) and Keynote (Apple) presentation software provide a means of displaying ‘slides’ of information to students, most often to support lectures and direct instruction. While often focused on presenting summaries of textual information, notoriously in the form of ‘bullet point’ lists, increasingly graphs, images and embedded video have been used to reduce the cognitive load on learners.  As with any educational tool however, it can be very effective in some learning situations and ineffective in others, particularly when overused or used poorly.

There are numerous guides to using presentation software more effectively, particularly for supporting lectures, business and conference presentations. The key suggestions are that text and images should be clearly readable by all of the audience; a ‘no more than 6 words per slide’ ideal; no more than 3 concepts per presentation; consistent use of fonts and styles; minimal use of attention getting devices such as extraneous images, sound effects, animations and varying transitions; and closing strongly. The focus should be on sustaining student attention but not at the expense of inhibiting their cognitive processing, and too much detail or media that a student has to process will impede learning.

Technologies such as laser pointers, audience response systems (clickers), interactive whiteboards (IWBs) and slidecasting narration tools have been used with presentation software to facilitate different pedagogical approaches, but presentations remain primarily an effective technology for direct instruction.


Slidecasting tools such Slideshare can host Powerpoint and Keynote presentations online for students to access and view, with the added facility that an audio recording of the presentation can be later uploaded and syncronised with the slides creating a Slidecast. Presentations can also be recorded directly when presenting using Keynote’s ‘record slideshow’ function, with the audio recording and transition points saved with the slides. Many universities and schools have slidecasting services built into their auditoriums and lecture halls such as LectureCapture, with recordings automatically made of presentations and published online or to a Learning Management System (LMS). Students can then use the recordings of presentations for review or as an alternative to physically attending a presentation.

Slide sharing services such as Slideshare have become a very popular means of sharing presentations beyond their initial audience or students. Examples include: Good Presentations Matter, How to be a Presentation Ninja and The End of Teaching as We Know It.

Google Slides

Slides is an online tool for creating presentations within the Google Drive environment that can be shared online, collaboratively edited online, and embedded in Google sites.

Slide Rocket

Slide Rocket also permits online creation and editing of presentations, sharing and editing collaboratively online, audio syncing, and monitoring which students have watched particular slides. Free educator accounts are available, teachers can integrate it with Google apps, and there is an iPad App.


Prezi is an online zooming presentation/storytelling tool that moves around a large canvas, zooming in and around images, text and video on a predetermined path or freely by the viewer.
Prezi can also be used collaboratively with up to 10 students accessing the one presentation to co-edit and show their prezi’s in realtime. There is also an iPad Prezi app and free educator licences are available for teachers.
Some effective Prezi presentations: Prezi: the zooming presentation software; What makes a prezi Beautiful?; Curriculum for Future Minds; Special Journeys; and Ideas about using Prezi as a teaching tool. 

Prezi U

Prezi U is a program for teachers to share and discuss the educational uses of Prezi and preservice students can become a Prezi U Ambassador. 

IWB's, Tables and Tablets

Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive Whiteboards (IWB) are large interactive displays connected to computers, where teachers and students can interact with the displayed image by touching it with pens or fingers. They have been installed in almost all primary and secondary classrooms after having been successfully repurposed and marketed for educational use after being developed for corporate boardroom presentations. IWB's are being used for:

  • Displaying and interacting with software running on connected computers; and
  • Capturing and saving what is written on the IWB to connected computers.

IWBs have been very successful in enabling many teachers to begin integrating educational technologies into their teaching, however not all teachers have made the transition from using an IWB as a substitute to technologies such as whiteboards, projectors and televisions, to more transformative uses such as collaborative activities and interactives (specific IWBs interactives are provided by companies such as the SMART Exchange and Promethian Planet). In some cases, IWBs have even inhibited pedagogical diversity by encouraging direct instruction and lecture approaches, and increasingly alternatives to IWBs, such as LCD TV's, interactive tables and individual tablet devices, are being explored. 

Interactive Tables

Interactive tables such as the SMART table and Microsoft PixelSense allow groups of students to sit around a horizontal multitouch IWB/LCD TV built into a table. 

Interactive Tablets

With the introduction of laptops and tablet computers, many of the constraints of IWBs are addressed at considerable cost savings by the ability of these devices to project their screens using remote desktop or screen mirroring tools onto digital projectors or TVs, connected to a network by computer (using Airplay on a Mac) or Apple TV. Several iPAd apps exist to achieve this, such as Splashtop, Educreations and Show Me.

Interactive Futures

Future learning environments will contain many more interactive surfaces and devices, with the following videos providing some indicators as to what classrooms may be like in the near future:


There are a wide range of educational software programs and interactives available for students and teachers to use on computers, tablets and IWB's. While the trend is to interact with more and more applications via the internet because of the advantages of  networked and online environments, many currently must still be installed on individual devices.

The Australian governments through Education Services Australia has invested many millions of dollars in creating and cataloguing a collection of learning objects (programs, apps, interactives, images, audio and video clips) specific to Australian education.

Each Australian educational body provides access for teachers to this collection of educational learning objects in various local databases that draw upon a national database of resources managed by the National Digital Learning Resources Network which uses a database access tool called scootleGovernment schools, Catholic schools and Independent schools can access these resources through local databases while preservice teachers and academics from Australian tertiary institutions can request access by emailing and mentioning their institution.

Learning Objects

Learning objects are collections of content items, practice items, and assessment items that are combined based on a learning objective. They atomise learning to self contained units or modules to achieve very specific aims, usually the understanding of a single concept. In this way, learning objects can be combined by teachers in many different ways to guide student learning and assist in individualising instruction.

Learning objects include metadata that helps teachers to find specific concepts they wish to include, and for their reuse in learning management and tutoring systems. This metadata defines the learning objects:

  1. learning objective;
  2. learning prerequisites;
  3. topic or concept;
  4. type of interactivity; and
  5. technology requirements.

Drill and Practice

Repetitive practice activities are often derided, but they are effective when individualised to students who will benefit from the specific activities involved. Reinforcing learning by systematic repetition, just as with physical skills, strengthen neural pathways and makes recall and integration of concepts more effective.

A wide range of software, apps and online services are available for students to practice recall and basic skills, including flash cards, mathematics and spelling tutors, and typing tutors.

Mathletics is a successful Australian online mathematics drill and practice system being used in over 10000 schools and 3.5 million students in which students progress up and down international leader boards depending on their progress at solving problems. Costs range from $30/student for annual school subscriptions to $99/student for annual home subscriptions.

Intelligent Tutoring

Intelligent tutoring systems take practice processes further by dynamically adjusting presented material and problems based on student past performance. They make use one or more models:
  • The Domain model;
  • The Student model; and
  • The Tutoring model.

The domain model (aka cognitive or expert knowledge model) contains all possible steps required to solve a problem and can be compared against student performance, as a source of expert guidance, and to detect errors in student solutions.

The student model overlays the domain model to trace student progress and identify when they deviate from the domain model, flagging errors to students and teachers as they occur.

The tutor model takes information from the domain and student models to make choices about tutoring strategies by creating estimates of whether a student has learnt a concept based on their past performance, and continues to attempt to teach each concept until it is 95% likely the student has learnt the concept. It also builds understanding of which strategies are most effective and tailors instructional strategies based on the students strengths and weaknesses.

The Khan Academy is developing an intelligent tutoring system to complement its collection of thousands of micro lectures on individual concepts screencast by Salman Khan through youtube and an iPad app.

Polling Systems

While intelligent tutoring systems can adjust instruction based on automated feedback from student learning, in other learning situations teachers find it useful to test and question students to ascertain their understanding as they present. Polling and quiz systems provide a means by which large numbers of students can be diagnosed even during lecture style presentations. 

Manual Polling Systems

Before electronic systems, teachers used a variety of measures to gauge student understanding as they presented. Distracted looks, showing of hands, and question and answer, are all commonly used indicators for teachers. More systematic efforts have included red and green cards held up to show understanding, desktop traffic lights or multi-coloured cubes, and small whiteboards on which students can write responses. Such approaches provide an at glance overview of how a group perceives they understand what is being taught, but it still requires some form of testing to determine if their learning has actually been successful.

With the advent of presentation software and associated computers and data projectors, audience response systems have been developed that enable not just indicators of perceived understanding, but diagnostic testing of this understanding through quizzes and polls.


Audience response systems or ‘clickers’ generally come as class or lecture sets of small handheld devices that are distributed to students for a session or course, and in some cases purchased by students similar to textbooks. 

Clicker systems can improve student attentiveness, conduct polls anonymously or track individual responses, display polling results immediately, create interactive and fun quizzes and games, and confirm student understanding of key concepts at set points in a presentation.

Clickers need to be synchronised to a computer or base system that communicates with student devices and the project results, often integrated into presentation software slides, with live polling and quiz answers displayed as they are received. Most commonly such receivers are USB dongles that can be plugged into a presenters computer and wirelessly receive signals from clicker devices.

Mobile Response Systems

Audience response systems have also been developed to work on student laptops, tablets and mobile phones, doing away with the need for dedicated 'clicker' devices.

Companies such as PollEveryWhere provide subscription polling services but free Australian services exist such as the CSIRO Votapedia that allows response to questions via SMS, specific phone numbers or a website.

Web based polling services such as MQlicker can be freely used from any web enabled device, and a number of Apps such Socrative, eClicker and iResponse as are available for tablets along with more integrated solutions such as Go Class.



Publishing to websites has become as common and simple as word-processing and there are many tools for creating websites of varying degrees of complexity. Simple websites are made up of pages similar to word processed pages but created with the  hyper text markup language (HTML). By using links defined by the HTML, viewers can move from page to page when these are hosted on a webserver, with each page having a unique website address or URL. More complex websites generate pages dynamically from databases of information. 

Websites by their nature are online, and many tools for creating and editing websites and their pages are available that will will host your website online, and provide each page with a URL address. If you want your own page addresses you need to pay an annual fee with a (domain name system (DNS) service. Weebly and Google Sites provide free site building with many tutorial resources.


ePortfolios are a specific type of website that present a collection of resources showing evidence of a students learning. There are many types of ePortfolios, some require information and resources to be entered in strict formats, dynamically presented in a uniform way, while at the other extreme, ePortfolios are created and maintained by the student themselves using a personal website such as a Google Sites. Many services exist to host or integrate ePortfolios into Learning Management Systems, but commonly used sites such as Facebook and Google+ are also being used as ePortfolios, with the distinction decreasing been ePortfolios and Personal Learning Environments. 

The three main educational purposes for ePortfolios are:

  1. Developmental - used as a means of teaching ICT capabilities;
  2. Reflective - through the process of collecting and presenting evidence of learning; and
  3. Representations - showcasing learning, often for assessment or external evaluation, e.g. job interviews.

It is possible to automate much of the process of ePortfolio creation through image uploads to services such as Picasa, with the portfolio having an album of all images uploaded to Picasa; or blog postings, where student postings to personal and task blogs can be automatically included in their portfolio through feeds from their personal and assignment blogs.

Personal Learning Environments

Extending from ePortfolios, Personal Learning Environments are systems and tools (such as blogs, RSS feeds, Twitter, etc.) that help learners take control of and manage their own learning to:

  • set learning goals;
  • manage their learning, both content and process; and
  • communicate with others in the process of learning.

As we use more and more such online tools, aggregator sites are becoming popular to manage and present the flow of information from online services to a single online location (such as an ePortfolio). Tension exists however for companies providing online tools, between attracting users who enjoy the flexibility to feed information to other sites, and the desire to attract users to visit the original site where online advertising revenue can be raised, and some services are beginning to restricting this flow.

Blogs and Wikis


Web Logs or Blogs are a series of discreet writings ("posts") displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). They have become very popular as a simple means of online publishing, and comprise reasonably short diary style commentaries on subjects of interests. Google Blogger, WordPress, and EduBlogs are popular blogging tools for teachers and also support multiple authors, used for student projects, class and school blogs, and other shared writing tasks. Blogs typically include text, images, and links to other websites, with facilities for readers to leave comments that often develop into a conversation about the post. Readers can ‘subscribe’ to a range of blogs with postings aggregated to an RSS Reader and in this way, checking one website (such as Google Reader) will see all recent blog postings that have been written. This is being used by students, teachers, student group members, and parents wishing to stay abreast of what is posted on several blogs. 

Teachers are setting up automated Blogger postings so that students can simply email messages containing their blog post to an email address they create ( and send this to their blog (also possible via SMS). Teachers are also automating picture postings to blogs, enabling young students to easily build an ePortfolio of their classroom achievements using mobile devices.

Many students, teachers, classes, schools, principals, and other educational organisations and professionals are maintaining blogs. The following is a sample:

Mrs. Cassidy’s Classroom Blog (Early Years Canadian Teacher)

Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog (USA Primary Class)

Learning Is Messy (USA Primary Teacher)

Seomra Ranga (Irish Primary Teacher)

Teaching and Learning in the Australian Primary Classroom (Australian Primary IB Teacher)

Classroom Chronicle (Australian Primary Teacher)

Larry Ferlazzo (USA Teacher)

Betchablog (Australian Teacher)

Hey Jude (Australian Librarian and Academic)

Courier Mail Education (Poppy Masselos, QLD)

Free Technology for Teachers (Educational Technology)

Edudemic (Professional Educational Technology)

Moving at the Speed of Creativity (USA Learning Consultant)


Wiki’s, unlike blogs, are not a series of posts but a collection of webpages linked together by hypertext. Wikipedia is the most well known wiki, structured as an online encyclopedia with each webpage presenting a topic that is progressively added to, discussed, edited and improved upon. In this way it has grown far beyond what a traditionally authored work could achieve, quickly making obsolete printed encyclopedias. Popular games and books such as Minecraft, World of Warcraft, and The Lord of the Rings also have wiki’s of significant size and detail, created and maintained by fans, and wiki’s were the foundation for many open textbook initiatives such as Wikibooks, Global Text, and CK-12.

Teachers and schools are using wikis as easily edited websites, with each page being for a class, student, assignment topic, classroom unit, project, etc. that is easily constructed and maintained by students and teachers. Teachers are using wiki’s as online textbooks to present content for students or share ideas and resources with peers, while students most commonly use wikis to present assignments

Free educator accounts are available from Wikispaces, Wikidot, pbWorks, and WetPaint, with many Learning Management Systems including wikis and blogs as part of their suite of online tools.

Digital Books

Word (Microsoft) and Pages (Apple) are complex word-processing software designed for formatting documents to exact specifications. Online services such as Google Docs, Open Office, and Zoho allow for the collaborative authoring of documents from any online device, and all of these and tools such Adobe PDF and PDFCreator can save documents in the PDF format so that they look the same when opened on any device. Teachers can then annotate student PDF's with tools such as iAnnotate or Adobe Reader. However such documents can be difficult to read on tablet and eReader devices, giving rise to new publishing formats and tools for creating digital books.  


eBooks are designed for displaying ePubs on portable devices such as the Kindle or iPad, with the text and images reformatting dynamically to suit the device and readers preferences, not having a fixed typeset and layout, i.e. page numbers, as traditionally formatted books.

Free online publishing services such as 2Epub, Smashwords and LuLu provide online tools to convert documents to the ePub format, specific tools such as Calibre or Sigl, and word processors such as Pages can edit and save in the ePub format.

iBooks Author

iBooks Author is a free publishing tool from Apple that provides a system for creating and publishing multimedia iBooks (that have fixed formats unlike ePubs) to the iTunes bookstore for use on iPad devices. While publishing iBooks for profit is more involved, publishing free texts as iBooks or PDFs is simple and the PDF version can be used on any device, and created iBooks can be distributed to students easily from services such as Dropbox.


iBooks can also include widgets that teachers can create, or from services such as Bookry, to include Youtube clips, PDFs, webpages, Google Maps, Twitter Feeds, Forms, Office documents, and many other interactives,

ITunes U

iBooks and other resources can be organised and presented as courses using iTunes U. Teachers are creating courses using the  iTunes U Course Manager (Safari) that are then accessible from any iTunes account, the iTunes U app on an iPad, or using the TunesViewer android app. Courses can be scheduled or self paced, include iBooks, presentations, PDFs, apps, video and audio clips, and online quizzes. Teachers can associate courses with an institution or create a private course, and courses can then be open or restricted to particular students with an enroll code that teachers provide to students. 

App based 

It is also possible to edit and publish digital books directly from mobile devices using apps such as Book Creator, Scribble Press and Book Creator.

Graphics and Video

Photo Editing and Graphic Design

Digital photograph editing software such as iPhoto, Photoshop (with CS2 version available) and the open source Gimp, allow students and teachers to create, edit, improve and modify digital photos and images, but there are also many other free online editors such as Photoflexer, Picasa Web, PicmonkeyPixlr, and Aviary; and a range of photo editing apps such as Photoshop Express and Snapseed.

A common problem with images is that they are seemingly resized or cropped on the screen but without changing the file size of the image. This can quickly make a document or website very large and slow to load, but this can be solved by resizing images in most image editing software and websites such as resize2mail, picresize and shrinkpicture.

Animated Images

Animated GIFs made up of a short series of  small images can be easily created using websites such as picasion,, and gifgear. Image sequences can assist in student understanding of processes and concepts, but can be easily overused, however animated gifs are popular with young children and many collections exist.

Screen Casting

Screencasting is a recording of what is occurring on a screen while narrating, usually to explain how to perform a task. Camstudio (Windows) is a free tool. QuickTime Player is included with OSX, or Screenflow (Mac) is available with educational pricing. TechSmith has a free tool called Jing (5 minutes) with educational pricing for Snagit and Camtasia screencasting tools. Sceencast-o-matic (15 minutes) is web-based and can freely record up to 15 minutes. Doceri and Explain Everything apps enable screencasting from an iPad.


Video Editing

Video editing software such as iMovie (Apple) and MovieMaker (Windows) provide basic video editing while more complex tools such as Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro but increasingly functional are free online video editing tools such as those in Youtube and Video Tool Box, and collaborative video editors such as Pixorial, and WeVideo.


3D Modeling

3D Modeling tools allow students and teachers to create three-dimensional objects that can be manipulated and viewed from different angles. Models are often used to create a series of 2D images, or as objects for digital storytelling, Augmented Reality, virtual worlds, 3D gaming environments, or 3D printing.

Sketchup is a very intuitive 3D modeling tool that has a free version (with education licences for the pro versions) and a very easy to use interface.

3D models can also be printed: Subtractive model making systems cut away or remove material to create a 3D model while additive systems such as 3D printers add material to form models.

3DTin is another modeling tool and it allows students to model in their web browser without needing to install software.

Autodesk123 includes Catch (online and app) that can create 3D models from photographs, a creature creator app, a designer tool (online and app), a tool for making 3D models from cardboard (online and app), and a tactile sculpting app. Services are available for laser cutting, 3D printing, CNC machining, and holographic printing of student creations. 

More powerful but complex modeling tools are Wings, Blender, Daz 3D (free version), and the Autodesk range.

3D Paper modeling tools such as Paper Critters (also available as an App) and Pepakura can let students turn their 3D models into physical objects by printing and folding their creations. 

Build With Chrome lets you create simple lego brick constructions online and place them on a shared map, students can build their homes, school or local landmarks; and Lego Designer can be downloaded and permits the creation of much more complex models without the need for Lego bricks.

Space is a theatre stage modeling tool for students to create set models.

Minecraft is a very popular 'sandbox' game in which students can model very complex buildings and objects using simple coloured and textured blocks. There are also online (free demo) and classic browser versions (requires Java); a Pocket Edition App; and Reality, an Augmented Reality app that places creations into the real world. Several services such Minecraft Papercraft and the Paper-studios App let students print 3D paper models of Minecraft objects or use services such as Mineways, Minecraft.print() and Shapeways, to print objects with a 3D printer.