31 Jul 2017

Switching to G Suite from Microsoft


Quite many people, organizations, and institutions we talk to, especially in the MENA region, are yearning to switch to G Suite because they know it provides more and better tools for business and education. However, they are reluctant  since they have been using Microsoft products for far too long. First, G Suite products are not a lot different than Microsoft products in terms of east of use, albeit they are more robust and more innovative. Second, good news, G Suite Learning Center has a guide for those who want to switch to G Suite. We are listing them here for ease of reference.


The guides include:

Switching to Gmail from Microsoft Outlook

Work faster and collaborate better with powerful email features.





Switching to Docs from Microsoft Word

Collaborate on text documents at the same time, in your browser.





Switching to Sheets from Microsoft Excelsheets_512dp

Collaborate on spreadsheets at the same time, in your browser.





Switching to Slides from Microsoft PowerPointslides_512dp

Collaborate on presentations at the same time, in your browser.





Switching to Drive from Microsoft OneDrive drive_512dp

Store, sync, and share files with ease





Switching to Hangouts from Skypehangouts_512dp

Send chat messages and make video calls anytime, anywhere.





calendar_512dpSwitching to Google Calendar from

Microsoft Outlook Calendar

Use integrated online calendars designed for teams.



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30 Jul 2017

Collaborate Better by Assigning a Task in Google Docs


2017-07-30_13-41-04We all love Google Docs comment feature. It helps teachers, students, and administrators to communicate well whilst collaborating on a shared document. But if one needs to hold someone accountable on completing a section in that document (also applies to Slides and Spreadsheets) on follow up on that task, comments do not do a good job. This is why a new feature on Google Docs comment is to assign a task to your collaborator. Watch the video below to find out more.








Assigning a task feature can be used with teachers giving formative feedback for a group of students working on an assignment, team leader assigning a task to his member, subject senior teacher assigning tasks to his teachers, school principal assigning task to his deputy principal working on a report, school administrator assigning a task to his colleague in writing a long memo.

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26 Jul 2017

Learn the Levels of SOLO Taxonomy

In an earlier post we said that Bloom’s taxonomy, although well known among teachers and schools is unreliable and does not transfer well for classroom tasks (more used for teacher assessments). We said that SOLO taxonomy has a great potential for differentiated instructions, tasks, and assessments, all whilst having students keen about their SOLO development.

In this post we have created a short interactive presentation of SOLO taxonomy. It introduces the basics of SOLO with the symbols for each of the 5 levels (taken from Pam Hook).

Click the image below to get started. More on the way, so make sure your subscribe to our posts and newsletter below.

solo taxonomy sarter

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26 Jul 2017

The Recognition Guide for Education Leaders

When I first read Daniel Pink’s Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us,  I knew that many schools are just using the wrong impetus to motivate their faculty members. Teaching is a highly intellectual profession and motiving teachers via monetary rewards does not (necessarily) improve their performance, at least for the long run.  Pink’s three key principles for motivation are

  • Autonomy: The desire to direct our own lives
  • Mastery: The urge to get better and better
  • Purpose: The service of something larger than ourselves

What is one principle that Pink omitted? Rewards! and here rewards refer to materialistic rewards e.g annual bonus, salary raise. However, when a teacher is recognized for doing something exceptional, it boosts his sense of purpose to further tie his service to something larger than himself. Teacher recognition is something that schools, governments, and even now students and parents do not give. Below are 1- A quick assessment whether you are a recognition guru and the 4 principles of recognition and 2- The ultimate guide to employee recognition.

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22 Jul 2017

Improving Student Learning with Effective Learning Techniques Part 2: Self-Explanation

Description and Why it should work

In the originative study on self-explanation, Berry (1983) explored its impacts on logical reasoning using the Wason card-selection task. In this task, a student might see four cards labeled “A,” “4,” “D,” and “3″ and be asked to indicate which cards must be turned over to test the rule “if a card has A on one side, it has 3 on the other side” (an instantiation of the more general “if P, then Q” rule). Students were first asked to solve a concrete instantiation of the rule (e.g., flavor of jam on one side of a jar and the sale price on the other); accuracy was near zero. They then were provided with a mini- mal explanation about how to solve the “if P, then Q” rule and were given a set of concrete problems involving the use of this and other logical rules (e.g., “if P, then not Q”). For this set of concrete practice problems, one group of students was prompted to self-explain while solving each problem by stating the reasons for choosing or not choosing each card. Another group of students solved all problems in the set and only then were asked to explain how they had gone about solving the problems. Students in a control group were not prompted to self-explain at any point. Accuracy on the practice problems was 90% or better in all three groups. However, when the logical rules were instantiated in a set of abstract problems presented during a subsequent transfer test, the two self-explanation groups substantially outperformed the control group (see Fig. 2). In a second experiment, another control group was explicitly told about the logical connection between the concrete practice problems they had just solved and the forthcoming abstract problems, but they fared no better (28%).

As described above, students explain some aspect of their processing during learning. Self-explanation may augment learning by integrating information with existing prior knowledge.  Although it is conceptually similar to elaborative interrogation, self-explanation has been much more variable across studies, However, the a major concern is that self-explanation prompts variations are highly dependent on content, as they largely differ between content-free and content-specific.


Content-free self-explanation is easier for students to learn on their own while content-specific need specific structure form prompting and is specifically aligned to assessments. In a nutshell, teach students to independently use self-explanation prompts independently like in homework assignments  and keep content-specific prompts for in class or when teacher is there.

Learning conditions

Self-explanation is found highly effective with direct instruction and discovery learning. In term so moderating effect, retrospective self-explanation produced an effect compared to no self-explanation, but the concurrent self-explanation produced a higher effect than the retrospective one. This is important as it encourages what I call “on-action” and “in-action” explanations. However, when students were allowed to access explanations, the effect was drastically diminished. Most probably learners haven’t earnestly attempted answering self-explanation prompts before consulting provided explanations. This is why when I am approached by some parent or teacher on why I encourage students to “figure-it” out whilst reflecting-in-action, I tell them that this is the best way the student can learn.

Student Characteristics

Self-explanation has vertical effect, as it applies to young as well as older learners. However, generalizability on different levels of prior knowledge and/or ability needs more research. One study however found the same gain in both high and low level student groups from an explanatory text about circulatory system. Another study however, should that lower-skill level of grade 9 students had more gains than higher-level ones.


One of self-explanation strengths is that it is applied across different tasks and in different domains with increased student learning.It  facilitates the solving of various kinds of math problems, including simple addition problems for kindergartners, mathematical-equivalence problems for elementary-age students, and algebraic formulas and geometric theorems for older learners. It improves student teachers’ evaluation of the goodness of practice problems for use in classroom instruction. It helps younger learners overcome various kinds of misconceptions, It also improves children’s pattern learning and adults’ learning of endgame strategies in chess. Several studies have also shown self- explanation effects for learning from text, including both short narratives and lengthier expository texts.

Criterion tasks

Self-explanation effects have been shown on a wide range of criterion measures. It has effects on standard measures of memory, including free recall, cued recall, fill-in-the-blank tests, associative matching, and multiple-choice tests tapping explicitly stated information. Studies involving text learning have also shown effects on measures of comprehension, including  diagram-drawing tasks, application-based questions, and tasks in which learners must make inferences on the basis of information implied but not explicitly stated in a text.

Virtually every study has shown that self-explanation has an effect on near-transfer tests. Effect on far-transfer tests have been shown typically in math problems and pattern learning.

However, the durability of self-explanation is a real concern. Most of the studies on self-explanation included few minutes to one hour or post-activity criterion test. Only very few studies have shown effects in a 1 week delay in narrative reading and 2 week delay in learning geometric theorems. 

Implementation Issues

As noted above, self-explanation has a broad applicability in many tasks and acoss many domains. An advantage of self-explanation is that learners need minimal practice prior to completing the task. However, teachers need to give specific instructions and prompting especially for learners with low ability or low-skill as they have been found to paraphrase a text instead of analyzing it.

A significant issue with self-explanation concerns the time spent on it. Learners who use self-explanation spend significant time more than those who don’t.

Overall Assessment: Moderate Utility

Self-explanation has moderate utility of implementation. Further research is needed to establish the durability of these effects across educationally relevant delays and to establish the efficacy of self- explanation in representative educational contexts. Another issue is the over-demanding time learners need to spend in using self-explanation.

Berry, D. C. (1983). Metacognitive experience and transfer of logical reasoning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 35A, 39–49.

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4–58. https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100612453266

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21 Jul 2017

Capturing Solutions for Organizational Learning and Scaling Up


The World Bank has published a much needed guidebook for organizations on how to document operational experiences for organizational learning and knowledge sharing. It also discusses the significance of organizational capabilities at two levels: Enabling Environment for Knowledge Sharing and Technical Skills. The  publication asks a simple, yet important, question: Is your organization missing important lessons from its operational experiences?


This step-by-step guide shows you how to systematically capture such knowledge and use it to inform decision making, support professional learning, and scale up successes. The captured lessons–knowledge assets, the central element needed for learning–are consistently formatted documents that use operational experience to answer a specific question or challenge.


The guide describes how to create and use knowledge assets in five steps: (1) identify important lessons learned by participants, (2) capture those lessons with text or multimedia documents, (3) confirm their validity, (4) prepare them for dissemination, and (5) use them for sharing, replication, and scaling up. Included tools, templates, and checklists help you accomplish each step


steps to caputer solutions




For knowledge sharing to thrive, organizations need to develop capabilities at two levels: (1) the enabling environment for knowledge sharing and (2) technical skills. Hence, becoming a knowledge- sharing organization involves a complex change management process. A complete organizational transformation involves initiatives in eight areas, or pillars.


two level capabilitis



If you are keen on developing your organization thorugh its learning experiences, make sure you download the guidebook.

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18 Jul 2017

Moodle 3.4 Embraces Learning Analytics, at Its Core

With the proliferation of LMSs and learners adopting online/hybrid learning, it is no question that there is a genuine push for learning analytics to gain more insight on how to optimize learner achievement, and gain more retention. Major LMS providers, and many less known ones, have adopted learning analytics. Some with great success, others not so much. So, it has come as a belated -yet very welcome- announcement in March 2017 when Moodle HQ announced the commencement of Project Inspire.  Project Inspire is essentially Moodle’s learning analytics that “go beyond simple descriptive analytics to provide predictions of learner success, and ultimately diagnosis and prescriptions (advisements) to learners and teachers”.

Currently, Project Inspire is still in Phase I (Descriptive and Predictive analytics) with future phases (diagnostic analytics and prescriptive analytics) on the roadmap. The Inspire plugin is out however for Moodle 3.3 for download. Moodle HQ promises that it will be in Moodle 3.4 core.  This is a much awaited step for Moodle in the right direction after their fabulous work on Competency based learning and Moodle Mobile (and Moodle Desktop).

Here’s an introduction to Project Inspire. It also calls for all Moodle using institutions to participate in the project to help develop Moodle’s learning analytics.

And, if you are skeptic about Learning Analytics value, here’s Peter Dobinson’s talk on measuring learning in Moodle at MoodleMoot UK & Ireland 2017.

Elizabeth Dalton, Moodle’s Research analyst, also talks about Project Inspire at MoodleMoot Australia 2016

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