Before I get into the nitty-gritty details of our second debate, I want to take a moment to commend Kalyn, Nataly, Victoria, and Jasmine on a well prepared and thought-provoking debate. Both sides did an excellent job of defending their stances right from the amazing opening videos through the concluding statements. I was also very impressed with how focused and composed both sides were when they were hit with a surprise curveball (in the form of an impromptu thunderstorm) which could have easily rattled or derailed them, but instead, like true pro's, they took it in stride and continued their debate as to if nothing happened. Well done everyone!
I'll admit when it came to the topic of "Technology is a Force for Equity in Society", I wasn't sure which side to pick in the pre-vote as my experience as an educator has provided me with reasons that could potentially argue both sides. While I did initially select the disagree side, I looked forward to solidifying my stance on whichever side was able to persuade me the most.
While Kalyn and Nataly both made many strong points as to why Technology is a Force for Equity, there were a few thoughts that really resonated with me from their side of the debate:
1) Technology provides access to information.
This was something that I hadn't considered before but really does make a strong case for their side. With the use of technology, we have unlimited access to information in our world. This was specifically the case in the example of the "Digital School in a Box" that was highlighted in their video.
2) Technology allows for more personal and individualized learning, while also helping students with disabilities.
This is something that I witness daily in my classroom as the use of technology has allowed me to provide students with the choice to demonstrate their learning in whatever way works best for them - whether that be in the form of a blog post, podcast, video, Adobe Spark, etc. - students have the option (and the means) to take more control of their learning. I have also witnessed the power of technology in supporting EAL (English as an Additional Language) students as it can not only provide them with a way to communicate with others through translation tools, but can also help with their comprehension through the use of Immersive Reader programs that are built into our OneNote, or on our Kidblog website.
3) The importance of Assistive Technology.
While the Immersive Reader tool that was mentioned above would definitely fit into this category, one example of assistive technology that has really opened my eyes as an educator is the speech-to-text or dictation tool. I've found this to be so beneficial for students, not only learning English but as a major help for students who struggle with spelling and writing. Sometimes students who struggle with spelling will often spell words phonetically, which may result in zero recommendations from the spell check software. Unless these students have a classmate or teacher review each of their assignments, they are unaware of spelling mistakes and unable to fix their mistakes as they write. However, the use of dictation software certainly comes in handy as students can speak and have the words displayed on the screen for them. While this software built into Microsoft Office has certainly been beneficial, I've found the speech-to-text tool on students' cell phones far more beneficial.
Typically when students struggle with a word, they simply say the word into their phone and then write down the correct spelling on their assignment (digital or paper). I've found that this route for middle years students has been particularly helpful in helping students grow because they have to read and correctly spell the word for themselves, rather than having it inputted directly into their assignments. The benefits of using a mobile device for this purpose has also allowed students to access this tool wherever they go while using Microsoft Office is limited to when they have their laptops. Without this tool, these students would most likely fall further behind, but technology has allowed them to "level the playing field", and I can definitely see the argument as to why technology could be a force of equity.
Victoria and Jasmine also did an excellent job of defending their side, and really used some compellign arguements surrounding why technology is not a force for equity in society. While listening to both their opening statement and rebuttal there were two key ideas that really stuck with me:
1) The Digital Divide.
At the start of this debate, the main reason why I was hesitant to side with the "Pro" side was largely due to the digital divide. This is something that many of us might want to believe is only a problem in developing countries, but Covid-19 has exposed this reality throughout our society. It became glaringly obvious that there was a gap in our province when teachers were tasked with delivering lessons remotely, there were a large number of families who would be unable to access this information. It's kind of scary that it took a global pandemic for the light to be shed on such a serious issue, that was seemingly swept under the rug in the past.
While this term was relatively new to me, one thing that Victoria mentioned really stuck out to me - the idea that in some parts of the world technology was being presented to populations as the "fix-all", but in reality, they were facing issues that were far more pressing than the need to buy a $100 laptop. This also tied into Victoria's point later on when she talked about families a little closer to home, who could potentially be faced with the decision to sacrifice basic needs to be able to pay for devices and the internet.
One thing that I really didn't think about during the debate, but that Trevor highlighted in his blog post was the notion of misinformation online. This is something that's really been picking up steam over the past few years but appears to be at an all-time high during the COVID Pandemic. As Trevor mentions, it's alarming to think that if people aren't properly prepared or educated in identifying misinformation or "fake news" online, the effects could be devastating.
While both sides made some great arguments that seemed to pull me in both directions, in the end though, I think my conclusion will be like the ending to LOST or the Soprano's - no real closure (Yes, I'm still bitter about LOST ten years later...Six Seasons and that's all we got...C'Mon!). While there are reasons to agree with both stances, ultimately I feel like the answer to this statement is complex, and much like the previous debate, there is probably more to it than a simple, "agree" or "disagree". When we look at the issue specifically, I think it all comes down to how the technology is being utilized, who is using it and what role education plays. For example, as we heard earlier, the advancement (and price) of technology can certainly cause a digital divide in our society and may force individuals and families to sacrifice so much, just to have access. This in itself, would really support the notion that technology is causing inequity in society. However, as we've witnessed with the CoVid crisis, many school divisions are providing technology to families who don't have access or enough devices at home in an effort to bridge that same gap. So...the argument could also be made that the use of technology has actually helped to provide equity to society.
So, where does that leave me? The answer is simple...I really don't know. See simple! Overall my brain feels like it's in the midst of an intense tennis match - going back and forth. Ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, I don't feel like there is an exact answer to this statement as there seems to be so many factors that could play out that could make both sides right. Maybe I'm taking a cop-out here, but I really feel like there is no right answer. What do you think?
When Trevor and I were deciding on which debate topic we were the most interested in, we kept coming back to a topic that at our core we both strongly agreed with - Technology Enhances Learning. However, we thought it might be interesting and helpful for us to select the side of this debate that would contradict our personal beliefs, and help us look at the issue from a different perspective. I'll admit at the beginning it was it a little hard to wrap our heads around this as every time we thought of a good argument, we naturally thought of a counterpoint from our own experience that would discredit the negative side. Also understanding how smart and experienced Amanda and Nancy are, we knew we had to dig deep to create an argument that would be counter their strong points on the pro side...or at least make them work a little bit before they ultimately crushed us!
The Key Points
While initially we had many ideas of how we could come at this topic, we eventually narrowed it down to three key issues that we felt would give us the best chance to defend our side: Distraction, Pedagogy and Screen Time.
1. Technology is a Distraction:
2. Sound Pedagogy is the Foundation for Enhancement, not Technology:
3. School-Based Technology Overloads Students with Screen Time:
The Opening Statement
Trevor and I mulled a few different directions that we could go with our opening statement, but since we felt that we were playing on the losing team, we decided to go the route that many politicians take when they are desperate to garner public support - Attack Ads. While we tried very hard to dig up dirt on our competition, they were just too honest and nice and we can up empty-handed... so we resorted to creating fake tweets (thanks to Amanda and Nancy for being such great sports with this!) and creating a dark tone for our video. We even ended up finding a "How to make an Election Attack Ad" video for creating your own smear campaign that helped us in making our video. Ultimately Trevor and I were very happy with how our video turned out and we had a lot of fun using WeVideo to make it. Check it out below:
Overall, this was such an amazing experience and a really engaging way to both learn more about an important issue in Education Technology and start a dialogue from all perspectives. I feel like I have a far better understanding of the side of parents and fellow teachers who may be resistant to increased technology in the classroom. While my stance on the issue hasn't changed (technology has the potential to enhance learning), it was very beneficial for me to learn more about the other side, as tech integration isn't perfect and issues such as distraction and screen time are worth exploring within education.
March 13th, 2020 - That was the day everything changed.
It's funny to look back on this day now as I don't think I fully comprehended the severity of the situation we were facing in Saskatchewan (and around the world). I remember thinking that there was no way we would be out of school for very long and that our worst-case scenario would have the students returning at the end of April. Oh, how naive I was! Here we are, roughly six weeks into supplementary learning - and with the recently announced closure of schools until the end of June, this will be the new normal for my students and me until the end of the year (and most likely next year as well). While this situation is definitely not ideal, I've counted my blessings as my experience in remote teaching has been quite positive. Don't get me wrong, there have been hiccups and opportunities for growth along the way, but I've realized how lucky I am to have such a supportive school team and very understanding parents as we navigate these uncharted waters together.
So...with that being said, what does a day in my life look like?
Rather than chronicle my day hour by hour and waste time telling you all about the awesome Netflix I watch on my lunch breaks and evenings (easily The Last Dance and Brooklyn Nine-Nine), I've instead summarized the Three C's of remote teaching experience: Connection, Content & Collaboration.
When it comes to communicating with my students, email is still one way that many of them choose to communicate with me as it's something that they were familiar with before shifting to this model of education. However, one tool that I've found very helpful for student communication has been Microsoft Teams. While I was hesitant to use this tool in the past, Microsoft has certainly done its part in beefing up this once inferior program to one that I feel confident in using with my students and recommending to other educators. The built-in chat function in Teams has been the primary way (outside of email) that my students and I have been able to communicate regarding questions about their supplemental learning. Typically if a student has a question about an assignment, they send me a quick message and I can provide an answer far quicker than before. I've also found that students respond far quicker than they would through email because many of them already using the app to complete their learning, rather than having to use a separate app to respond to emails. When it comes to face-to-face (well kind of) interaction, my students and I utilize the video chat function in Teams three times a week - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1:00 - 2:00. The structure of these meetings vary depending on the day, but typically we do the following:
Monday: We usually start our week by sharing the High and Low points from the previous week, which allows students to share what's going on in their lives. After this, I share a brief PowerPoint that highlights previous assignments, reminders, and a brief overview of the key learning for the week. Once we've finished this, I open it up to any questions students may have about past or future assignments before we end our meeting with a trivia game on Quizizz with the theme selected by the winner from the previous week.
Wednesday: This meeting is reserved for Grade 8 Math as I teach all the Grade 8's Math and my fellow 7/8 teacher handles the Grade 7 Math. These meetings are relatively simple as I spend about 5-10 minutes reviewing the Flipped Math lesson for the day before opening it up to questions. Students then spend the rest of the class working on their assignment and I more or less just hang out while students are working and answer questions as they come up.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm very blessed to be a Connected Educator as it has allowed me to teach in a 1-1 environment. This has allowed me to incorporate the use of Microsoft OneNote into my daily instruction and has been a relatively seamless transition into our summative learning as students are already familiar with this program. Lots of the written content and assignments are distributed to students using this tool as it's easily curated in the different sections of their OneNote and students also can complete the assignments right in the OneNote app using the typing tool or draw tool if they have a stylus or a mouse. As Math is one of the main subjects being taught during supplemental learning, OneNote has been the primary tool I've used to provide students with their assignments. Below you can see two examples of how students have used this tool to complete and submit their work:
Speaking of Math, this has also been a relatively seamless transition into remote teaching for my students and thanks a younger version of Dean teaching the rookie version of me the "In's and Out's" of Flipped Math 7 years ago. With Flipped Math being the norm in my class before Covid-19 hit, I was very fortunate, as all of my lessons for Grade 8 Math had already been recorded and posted on my Flipped Math Website. This enabled me to continue teaching in a flipped environment, albeit without the same amount of one-on-one time we would have had in a physical classroom. With the lessons already recorded online, I typically assign two videos for students to watch each week, along with an accompanying assignment that they can work on.
Although I already had lessons created for Math, I had to get a little more creative when it came to other subjects. While tools like Flipgrid, Socrative, and Kidblog have been very helpful in teaching ELA, I wanted to try something a little different as I began branching out to teaching some Science content last week. For these lessons, I decided to create short videos that either taught the content necessary for the lesson, or guided students through labs that they could complete at home. I also dabbled with EdPuzzle, and converted my lesson on Mixtures and Pure Substances into an EdPuzzle interactive video for students to engage in before exploring a short assignment in their OneNote.
If you would like to view the two cringeworthy" videos that I edited using the finest software that my old iMac could offer, here they are for your viewing pleasure:
I'm very fortunate to work at a school with such a supportive and collaborative staff as each week my grade alike PLN meet on Teams and we share our learning experiences. My teaching partner and I also schedule a short meeting after each Wednesday's live Math class to discuss how the meeting went and bounce ideas off each other. I find these short collaboration sessions incredibly helpful as it's evident that no one is in this alone and the ideas and conversations I have with my colleagues are so helpful in planning my future supplemental learning opportunities.
While Remote Teaching or Supplemental Learning is certainly not ideal, they're here (and maybe for a while) whether we like it or not. I've definitely had my fair share of struggles and moments of frustration over the past six weeks, but I finally feel like I'm at a point where I feel comfortable with the routine my students and I are in, and look forward to learning and growing more both professionally and personally as we navigate through the remainder of this school year.
Hello and welcome to my blog for EC&I 830! My name is Matt Bresciani and I am a Middle Years Teacher at St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Regina, Saskatchewan. While my primary assignment over the past eight years has been Grade 7/8, I've also had the opportunity to teach a variety of subjects in some of the lower grades as well. These experiences have allowed me to work outside my comfort zone and realize the curriculum connections that exist for students in primary to middle years. I enjoy learning new curriculums and discovering ways to creatively implement them in different classroom scenarios.
Technology has been a major part of my educational journey - which began with All the Right Type and Hot Dog Stand in my primary years, iMovie and Adobe Photoshop in High School, followed by the many educational apps that I learned about during my time in ECMP 355 at the University of Regina. As an educator, I understand that technology is an incredibly important tool that we can utilize to both engage our students and enhance their learning, but should never be used as a means to replace learning. I've been very fortunate to be a part of the Connected Educator Project in Regina Catholic Schools since its inception four years ago. Essentially as a participant in this project, my classroom is a one-to-one environment with each student having access to their own laptop supplied by the division. This project has provided so many opportunities for growth, not only for my students but for myself professionally, as I am continuously learning new ways to integrate technology into my pedagogy.
I'm very excited for the format of this class, as it is so different than any of the classes I've taken before. The notion of exploring both the positive and negative sides of educational technology is very intriguing and I'm excited of at the prospect of getting to participate in my first debate (well formal debate...I have another masters degree in arguing with others). I look forward to learning with all of you as we navigate this journey together!