While 2Pac may not have written his song Changes about the education system, one line does ring true within this setting as students - and the world around them - are continually changing and "things will never be the same" - or stay the same. This week's discussion focused on the changes that have occurred over time and how the different generations have responded and reacted to these changes. While there is much content to delve into from this lesson, one particular question left me with many thoughts regarding my profession and what it may look like in the future - "Do schools really need to change?"
How are Schools Changing?
As the world around us continues to evolve, schools need to embrace the ways that technology can positively impact student learning. Technology is not only something that the younger generations are actively engaged in but also something that has great potential to improve the education system as a whole - when used properly. Over the past decade, it became evident that the current state of education, while working for many, was not effectively reaching all our students. As a result, many educators have sought out new ways to integrate technology into their pedagogy as a means of solving this problem. Blended, Flipped and Online Learning have been one solution schools (and divisions) have adopted as a way to bridge the gap between their students, and has become a major change to the educational landscape in our province. Utilization of these methods has allowed for the learning experience to be tailored to meet the needs of each individual student, and also offers a flexible timeframe so students have the opportunity to learn at their own pace.
As a Grade 8 teacher, I began using the Flipped approach in my math class a few years back when I was inspired by our fellow classmate Dean, who had adopted this model within his High School classroom. When I saw the positive effect this approach was having on his students, I too decided to give it a whirl to see if it would help to improve the learning experience for my students. At the time I was teaching in a school that had a 68% EAL (English as an Additional Language) population and I wondered if having the ability to re-watch lessons and work at their own pace would help my students learn better than the typical "lecture-style" lessons I had been using before. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this method not only had positive benefits for my EAL students, but all students in my class, as many were able to work at their own pace through each unit, and the majority of my time was spent working one-on-one with any students who required assistance, instead of lecturing at the front of the classroom. While shifting to a Flipped Model, can be a lot of work upfront, the benefits far outweigh the initial time commitment, and I honestly can't ever see myself swtiching back to the traditional model of teaching math.
Why do Schools need to Continue to Change?
Recently, I was selected (along with Trevor and Dean) to pilot a new STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program called goIT with our classrooms. The goal of this program was to introduce the concept of STEM to our students and teach them about the current STEM skills gap that exists in our world today. It became very evident that this concept was incredibly important, not only for my students, but for all students as there is currently a major gap between education and opportunity that exists outside of schools. One of the first lessons in this project highlighted some alarming statistics that emphasize the need for education to bridge the present and future gaps that will result from changes to technology and the world around us. Some of the most important reasons why schools need to change are:
After taking some time to reflect on the wonderful presentation by Mary Beth Hertz, I came to the realization that even though I've been teaching digital citizenship for the majority of my career, there is still so much I don't know. Throughout the presentation, I furiously jotted down notes of different approaches, ideas and resources that were shared by Mary Beth and other members of my EC&I 832 class. I can honestly say that after our session, I walked away with a plethora of new ideas that will not only be utilized in the classroom, but also my personal life as well!
Is There More To Being Digitally Literate?
At the beginning of her presentation, Mary Beth touched on a course that she teaches every year to the Grade 9's at her High School, which focuses on the introduction to the internet as well as the devices the students will be utilizing throughout their time in the building. She explained that this course is important because using technology is only one part of being digitally literate; the other part is understanding the functionality/capabilities of the technology. This notion is something that really resonated with me, as I am very fortunate to be a Connected Educator in my division, and teach in an environment that is full of technology. Each year I do spend some time during the first few weeks of school teaching my students the basics for using their laptops and the different technology that we will be utilizing throughout the year. This typically involves crash courses for using Microsoft OneNote, Microsoft One Drive, Kidblog, Adobe Spark, and Outlook. However, the more I think about it, the majority of my time is spent educating my students how to use the technology, with no time dedicated to teaching about the functionality of the technology, and the implications it may have.
This is such an important realization for me professionally, as I'm currently only teaching my students to be partially digitally literate. By teaching only one side of the technology, I'm essentially encouraging my students to hop in the driver seat, without fully understanding how to use the car. Something as simple as "cookies", could be a powerful lesson for students when I'm teaching them how to use online programs such as Onedrive or Adobe Spark. Explorations into how these programs will utilize their personal information could lead to meaningful discussions about privacy, and what happens to their data online when using some of the other technology or apps that they currently engage in outside of school. Dedicating time to this aspect of digital citizenship provides students with more tools to help them investigate and explore the backside of technology before deciding if they will use it or not - rather than the old way of simply "signing up" going into it blindly.
The Need for Self Regulation
In her presentation, Mary Beth also touched on something that is incredibly relevant for our students (and just about anyone nowadays) - self-regulation in regards to technology. With the accessibility of technology being at an all-time high, it becomes very easy to be consumed by it. As an educator, I've witnessed the effects that over-consumption of technology can have on the lives of my students, and simply taking the devices away is not a solution to the problem, but rather a band-aid fix of a much larger issue. As Mary Beth and Alec explained, self-regulation is something that students both want and need, and as teachers, we play a large role in making this happen. We need to understand (and not judge) the world our students are living in and provide them with strategies on how to manage their time with technology. Many teachers are already educating their students on how to regulate themselves from a young age, and adding a technological component to his would be a relatively simple way to combat this issue as a whole.
When discussing self-regulation, Mary Beth also offered one idea for an activity that she had utilized in the past with her students that I'm particularly interested in trying out. She explained that as part of the course, she tasks students with deleting one app off their device or go without using a specific piece of technology for 24 hours. As students participate in this activity, she asks them to vlog about their experience and reflect on how they feel. Mary Beth explained that oftentimes with this activity, students realized that they weren't missing out on much, and many did not re-install the app after the activity was completed. This is something that I have personally experienced as last year I gave up Facebook for Lent and quickly realized that I wasn't missing it, as I was no longer spending hours scrolling through my newsfeed each week. After Lent, I was in no rush to re-install it, and while I did eventually get it back, it made me more cognizant of how I utilize the time spent on my phone. This realization, coupled with Mary Beth's project makes me wonder if my students would have a similar experience/epiphany in regards to their own technology usage if I were to attempt this in my classroom. Even if they don't, I'm willing to bet this would be an excellent exercise to start the discussion around using technology in moderation, which would still lead students in the right direction.
After some careful deliberation between the four options, I have decided to utilize the resource development opportunities alloted in Option One as the basis for my major project. More specifically, I would like to develop a series of Breakout EDU's that revolve around Ribble's Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. What is a Breakout EDU you ask? Essentially a Breakout EDU is a physical or digital experience where students collaboratively work together to solve a series of problems and puzzles, with the ultimate goal of unlocking or "breaking into" a final box to complete the activity. These experiences typically have an overall theme and are alligned with a specific grade, subject or curriculum outcome. Breakout EDU's are very similar to Escape Rooms, as skills such as collaboration, problem solving and teamwork are heavily emphasized in gameplay, but differ in the fact that they can be utilized in any school or classroom and transportation to an actual escape room location is not necessary. While educators can certainly purchase a Breakout EDU kit from the website, these kits are often pricey and can just as easily be constructed from scratch for a fraction of the cost.
Why Breakout EDU?
As an educator, I've had some opportunities to incorporate Breakout EDU's into my teaching - primarily during the first week of school as a team-building activity, and also once as a culminating event for a Harry Potter novel study. I've found that whenever I've been able to utilize this resource, it has been a highly engaging experience for my students and I. The fact that when students participate in Breakouts, they demonstrate their learning in a fun way that also builds teamwork and problem-solving skills is also a huge bonus. While I have had some experience facilitating the Breakouts, I have very little experience in the actual creation of the activity, as the majority of the Breakouts I've utilized were created by other users in the Breakout EDU database. I'm very excited at the prospect of creating Breakouts for this project, as I believe it will be very interesting to learn about how these activities are structured and will also be a fun and engaging experience for me.
What Would This Look Like?
These Breakout EDU’s would be designed so they could be integrated into the Grade 7/8 Digital Citizenship Course that was created by my division and could be utilized by teachers using this resource. I would also ensure that these Breakout's are generic enough that they could be easily adapted for teachers who may in not be in my division, but are also following the Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Continuum. I feel like this would be beneficial resource for teachers in my division as well as others outside the division as there are very few breakouts designed with a specific focus on digital citizenship. Currently my vision would be to create 5-6 experiences that would be available for other educators to access digitally through Google Drive or Office 365.
What Do I Need To Do?
As someone who tends to procrastinate (don't tell my principal!), I think it's important that I establish a few goals for myself for this project. This way I can check in with my progress and ensure that it is truly an ongoing project throughout the semester and not one that gets completed during the final week of classes.
As such, I've decided on the following goals for myself:
I'm really excited to begin exploring the creation side of Breakout EDU's as well as the exploration of the Digital Citizenship course provided by my division. If anyone has any other suggestions for me or has any experience in the creation of Breakout EDU's please let me know as I would appreciate any feedback or pointers! I'll be sure to update this blog with my discoveries and content as I develop the Breakouts - maybe I could even persuade some of you to be my guinea pigs and test them out for me!
Who Am I?
Hello and welcome to my blog for EC&I 832! 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 to be a member of this class and learn more about the different social media platforms that students are using today, as well as ways to "bridge the gap" and utilize them within my own classroom. I look forward to learning and interacting with all the wonderful participants in this course as we journey through EC&I 832 together!