This week we were treated to a wonderful presentation by Kalyn, Megan, Leigh, and Jenny on Assistive Technology. This group did an excellent job explaining what assistive technology, how it's utilized and how important it is - not only within our schools - but in the world in general. Personally, I was quite surprised with my misconceptions regarding assistive technology, as the first thing that came to my mind when we were asked to discuss assistive technologies were high tech examples such as computers or FM systems. I was surprised to learn that items as simple as pencil grips or visual schedules are considered assistive technology - which made me redefine my own understanding of what assistive technology is.
My Experience With Assistive Technology
As I mentioned above, thanks to the amazing presentation, I learned just how prevalent assistive technologies are within my classroom, as I was unaware that many of the tools I'm already using were assistive technologies. A further insight that was shared with us was how assistive technology can be divided into three different categories based upon the usage of technology. With this in mind, I would like to explore my personal and professional use of assistive technologies through the following categories: Low Tech, Medium Tech and High Tech.
Out of the three categories, this was the one that I really wasn't aware of. I had never imagined that items such as binder clips or highlighters could be considered examples of assistive technology. However, with my new understanding of this category, it was very easy to find different assistive technologies that I utilize on a daily basis within my own classroom.
From my first day as a classroom teacher, I have always utilized a large visual schedule on my whiteboard that breaks down the subjects that my students will be learning on a particular day. Every morning I take a few minutes to go through my "gameplan" with my students and discuss what we will be learning in each subject. While my schedule does not include specific times (something that I used to have), each subject label is accompanied by an image to represent it. I believe this helps keep my students organized and prepared at the start of the day and after recess breaks. It has also been useful for students who experience anxiety as the visual schedule provides consistency for my students each day.
Before these types of systems were as common as they are now, I utilized an FM system daily to support a student who had a hearing impairment. It was a little different than the ones that are commonly found in classrooms as the audio from my microphone went straight to my students' hearing aid, and not into a speaker at the back of the room. This technology was instrumental in the learning and success of the student - and was quite easy to use. The only roadblock we faced was ensuring that I had set the microphone to charge each night - and the student remembering to put the hearing aid in each morning.
Voice to Text (Cellphone & Computer):
While this could also be considered "High Tech", I had a student in the past who utilized the speech to text function on their phone to help them spell. Initially, we were using the spell check function to try and catch spelling mistakes, but we noticed that it wasn't working well because my student was spelling most words phonetically - which Microsoft word was unable to distinguish and was providing the wrong spelling suggestions. After discussing this with the student, we found a workaround which was simply using the speech-to-text function on their cellphone to help find the correct spelling of a word. We opted for the cellphone rather than a computer as the student felt more comfortable using their phone, and after some trial runs, we found that the speech-to-text tool in Microsoft Office wasn't as reliable or as effective as the one on their phone. This was an integral tool in helping my student learn to spell correctly as the more they used it, the more consistently they were able to spell words that proved difficult in the past.
While I don't have as much experience with High Tech tools as I do at other levels, I would still classify my class set of laptops as High Tech Assistive Technology. Even if all the students don't need to utilize them in the supportive capacity that other students would require, they still have the potential to be used in this regard when needed. However, one High Tech tool that I have utilized in the past for learners with lower reading levels, or English as an Additional Language learner is the Immersive Reader tool within our Classroom OneNote. Having the ability to read any words (whether text format or in an image) back to the students was extremely helpful. It was particularly cool when students could take a picture of a paper text and have OneNote read it back to them. The Chrome Immersive Reader extension has also a handy tool for my students when they are navigating various websites and need help reading the content. Also on a side note, I was completely blown away with the "short text" function on Seeing AI, as it was incredibly accurate. I could certainly see the benefits of using this app as an Immersive Reader - although the other functions on this app could be a distraction to students and also as scary in how accurate they are.
Challenges & Limitations
As was discussed in our breakout group, a major limitation of assistive technologies can be the cost associated with the tool. While visual schedules or digit fidgets can be purchased for a relatively low price (or created for free) - many of the other tools at the Mid to High level can be quite costly. If parents or schools do not have the budget to purchase these tools, it creates issues as the students will not have access to the technology required for them to experience success within schools. In addition, while there may be funding that families can access to help cover the costs of these tools, the process could also be a major barrier for our EAL families - as the wording in these documents can be difficult to follow.
In addition, Trevor also made a great point in his blog regarding the use of technology at home vs. school. While many students may have various assistive technologies to use while at school, a potential problem could arise if they do not have access to the tools while they are at home. Unfortunately, this could also lead to a further widening of the digital divide as Trevor explained, "privileged students that have access to good quality technology at home will not have the same challenges as those dealing with older technology or no technology whatsoever."
This week, Dalton, Trevor and I had the opportunity to share what we had learned about assessment with the rest of the class. As we prepared for the presentation, we spent some time exploring what assessment is as well as a variety of digital assessment tools that can be utilized in a classroom. Some of these tools were brand new to us (Classkick), while many others were ones that we've used extensively in our classrooms. For this blog post, I will take some time to further discuss Socrative - which happens to be the assessment tool that I've utilized the most over my ten-year career. However, before we get to discussing this specific tool, it might be helpful to refresh yourself with some other examples of non-digital assessment tools that teachers have used (and continue to use) in today's education climate.
Assessment Technologies: Formative and Summative
What is Socrative?
Socrative is a user-friendly digital assessment tool that allows students to participate in virtual self-marking quizzes that provide realtime feedback for both students and teachers.
Setting Up Socrative
As is mentioned in the presentation, one of the benefits of using Socrative is how easy and user-friendly it is for teachers and students. Once an account has been created (which is a simple process involving your email and a password), it is relatively easy to design quizzes that can be assigned to students.
Please see the steps below for creating your very own Socrative quiz:
Step One) Select the quizzes tab and name your quiz.
Step Two) Add the the type of question needed for your quiz - you have the option of True/False, Multiple Choice or Short Answer
Step 3) Type your question, fill in the answer bank, and add an image (if needed)
Step 4) Add an explanation in the box at the bottom of the question.
This feature identifies and explains how to solve a question in the event a student got the answer wrong. I personally love this feature as it helps my students to learn from their mistakes!
Step 5) Save your quiz and exit back to the home screen.
As was the case for teachers, Socrative is also very easy for my students to access and use. The log-in process is relatively simple as students do not need to worry about forgetting usernames or passwords as there are no unique profiles necessary on the basic Socrative account. Instead, students only need to enter the name of my Socrative room (this can be customized by the teacher), and their first name to access the quiz. Not only is this a benefit for student privacy, but it also provides a simple and quick way for students to complete the Socrative tasks provided to them.
When taking a quiz, Socrative also has a unique feature that teachers can activate which allows students to take an open navigation quiz. With this setting, students can work back and forth through the questions on an assignment and do not need to submit their work until they are finished. This allows students to think about their answers or move to a different question if they are stuck - unlike some of the other assessment tools that force students to submit their final answer before they can move onto the next one.
Use of Socrative
While I've used Socrative for both summative and formative assessments in other subjects, my primary use of this tool is during my Flipped Math classes. As I've mentioned in past posts, in my Flipped Math class, my students are tasked with viewing my pre-recorded lessons before coming to school. Once our math class begins, the students are tasked with answering a brief (3-5 question) Socrative quiz on the concepts from the lesson. As students write this quiz, I track their results in real-time and use this information to gauge which students will need additional support before beginning their daily tasks or assignment. This is an integral part of my class as these results also help me target the specific area or concept that a student may be struggling with and avoid re-teaching an entire lesson - which saves time for both of us.
Pros and Cons
Formative or Summative?
As was discussed in our presentation, like so many other digital assessment tools, Socrative isn't inherently formative or summative - it's all about how we use it. While I may primarily utilize Socrative for formative assessment in my math class, I've also used it as a summative assessment tool in other classes. While some teachers (Dean and Trevor) may argue that Go Formative (a tool similar in nature to Socrative) is the superior assessment tool, I believe that it all comes down to personal preference - just as the use of this tool (formative or summative) comes down to the needs of the teacher.
With this week's content focusing on Web 1.0 and 2.0, it was very interesting to explore how our use of the internet and technology has evolved. While Web 1.0 was primarily utilized to access and read information, Web 2.0 was designed as a place for people to communicate, create and share. At the time this was viewed as a largely positive step forward and something that would set off a chain event of innovation and creation within the technology world. However, as it was highlighted in the documentary, "The Social Dilemma" - many of these Web 2.0 technologies started out with admirable and positive attributes, but over time eroded and were replaced by capitalist goals that consumed them. Unfortunately, this has had a direct impact on their use (and reliance) within our society and leaves us wondering if we were better off without them.
While I was warned by others about the effect "The Social Dilemma" would have on my technology perspective, I decided to view it anyway as I was quite intrigued by the buzz around the film. Initially, I thought people were overreacting when they explained that after the film they disconnected from many of their social media accounts, however, as I sit here a few days removed - I definitely get it. Although there were certain aspects of the film I wasn't entirely sold on, it was eye-opening to learn about some of the ethical and moral issues surrounding my favourite apps from previous leaders in the Technology Industry. Even though I've heard about so many of these issues before (like the Facebook-FTC Settlement), I never put much effort into learning more about them - most likely because I would have rather kept my head in the sand and continue to blindly enjoy the technology. However, now that I have taken (if only a little time) to learn more about this issue, I wonder if the positives outweigh the negative implications in our society.
Positive Implications of Web 2.0
If we were to look back to the inception of many Web 2.0 technologies, this would have certainly been the driving force behind them. The notion that technology would provide a way to connect humans in ways that were previously impossible was amazing. To this day, many of these technologies continue to do just that and have become an integral part of our society. If one were to look at the positive outcomes from Web 2.0, there is no better example than the COVID-19 Pandemic. During the onset of the virus, the entire world essentially went into lockdown and people were no longer able to gather and communicate with one another in person. However, due to the advancement of Web 2.0 technologies, people were able to communicate and socialize with one another - even if it wasn't face-to-face. I think back to my own experience during the lockdown and while I certainly missed seeing friends and family, I was still able to connect with them through technology. We used apps like Houseparty to play games together, Facetime and Zoom for family suppers, Poker Stars and Zoom for poker nights, just to name a few. While the social aspect was important during the pandemic, it is also important to note the vital role that Web 2.0 technologies played in education as well. If this pandemic would have hit 20 years prior, it would have been incredibly difficult to continue educating our students while they were at home. However, with so many useful tools at our fingertips, educators were able to continue delivering lessons through distance learning. Utilizing technologies like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Classroom, SeeSaw and OneNote (to name a few) had a positive impact on the ability to educate our students during the onset of the pandemic and continue to do so today.
While I mentioned above the impact that Web 2.0 had on education during the pandemic, it's also important to note the implications it's had on the education of our society as a whole. With information so easily available online, people from all around the world can learn about important events occurring in places outside their communities at the click of a button. Although there is certainly lots of false and biased information out there, I would argue that these tools have helped spread awareness about crucial issues that we may not have heard about 20 years ago. Just think to the impact that the social media has had on providing awareness to important issues in our world: the Black Lives Matter Movement, the role a Tik Tok creator played in informing the world about the Muslim camps in China, or even closer to home with an Indigenous Edmonton man utilizing Tik Tok to educate people on Indigenous culture. While there is certainly a flip side with all the misinformation out there, it is definitely important to acknowledge that there are still many positive educational opportunities afforded with Web 2.0 technology.
Negative Implications of Web 2.0
Driving Force Behind the Technology
As was mentioned in the opening paragraph, at the onset of Web 2.0, many of the technologies that were being created were designed to positively impact humans around the world. Unfortunately, as time has progressed, it has become less about positively impacting users and more about making money - which was a focal point of The Social Dilemma, as they explained, "If you're not paying for the product, then you're the product." This is something that I've heard about for a long time but really didn't question - probably because I didn't want to know the answer. Learning about the algorithms used by many social media companies to control users with targeted advertisements as well as the amount of information they have is incredibly scary.
Initially I hadn't thought much about why I was seeing certain posts, why certain notifications would pop up or why it was recommending various videos for me to watch. However, now that I have a little insight into this world, it's not only scary but downright terrifying. Shortly after viewing the video, I wanted to test this out and take a look at what would pop up in my Facebook feed and I was horrified to see that what I hadn't noticed before. Out of the first 20 posts to pop up on my wall, 4 were targeted advertisements and videos - 20% of what I'm consuming on what is supposed to be a social networking platform are advertisements that I'm unknowingly viewing, which is generating even more revenue for Facebook. This is certainly scary - and what's scarier is how specific the videos and advertisements are to my interests, likes and conversations I've had with friends. This really made me think about my privacy and how much of what I do and say online is no longer private, and instead of being used against me for the financial gain of a billion-dollar company.
The Echo Chamber Effect
While privacy concerns and the monetization of the software are certainly an unsettling issue, perhaps even worse than these are the algorithms used to deliver information. As the documentary pointed out when people get upset and others for spreading fake news, propaganda and conspiracy theories online, the typical response is "they should know better!". Unfortunately, what these people are failing to realize, is that they probably don't know any better due to the types of information that are being pushed out or recommended to them online. With these online algorithms, when something is searched or liked, Facebook (and other software) will try to find similar videos, groups and posts to recommend to users. Unfortunately, this essentially creates an echo chamber online where people are continually being fed information that ties into their current beliefs and makes it next to impossible for these types of people to see both sides of an issue - or even the truth in many cases. An example highlighted in the film was the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that spread like wildfire online and convinced many people that there was a human trafficking ring tied to pizza restaurants, some to the point that they armed themselves and tried to liberate the fictitious victims and were ultimately arrested.
If Pizzagate wasn't a strong enough example of this, we need to look no further than 2020 and the more recent conspiracy theories online about QAnon and how Facebook was forced to change its algorithms to limit the theories spread. Or even closer to home with the No Mask Movement here in our home province of Saskatchewan. Many of us question how people could refute Science (and common sense) when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and blatantly disregard their safety and the safety of others. However, one peak in the No Mask Saskatchewan Facebook group paints a pretty clear picture as the amount of fake news and conspiracy theories posted by the 4.5k users is astounding. With the combination of this group and numerous`videos and posts recommended for them online - it's not hard to see where these steadfast beliefs come from.
Ultimately, when looking at the issues surrounding Web 2.0 technologies it's easy to look at these negative consequences and decide to write them off as many people have after viewing The Social Dilemma. While I agree there is a lot wrong with so many of the social media applications that we use today - especially the two areas highlighted in this blog post. I do, however, believe that we still need to focus on the benefits that these technologies have had on our lives, especially during the hard times of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the end, the answer to this argument could be summarized by Neil Postman when explained that "for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage". As the consumers of these technologies, we need to ensure that advantages still outweigh the disadvantages because if they don't, and we continue using them - we have no one to blame but ourselves.
I think it goes without saying, but 2020 has been a whirlwind of a year for teachers. With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the world last winter, educators everywhere were forced to adjust to a different way of teaching to ensure their students were able to continue learning. While there were certainly many speed bumps and roadblocks along the way, teachers displayed resilience and persevered into the relatively uncharted waters of distance learning. This was a particularly steep learning curve for most teachers as this form of instruction wasn't that prevalent in our education system - especially at the elementary level.
Looking back on my experience, I feel very blessed to be a part of the Connected Educator program within my division, as the shift to distance learning (while not ideal) was a relatively smooth transition. Teaching in a one-to-one environment allowed me to utilize a plethora of learning tools that - while great in my situation - would be much more difficult without a class set of devices. As a result, when we shifted to online learning, my students were already familiar with the majority of tools we would be utilizing, so the learning curve for new tools was relatively low. Here are a few of the tools that I found to be the most beneficial during my time delivering instruction online, that could be utilized within a face-to-face class as well:
When it came to communicating with my students, email was still one way that many of them choose to communicate with me as it was something that they were familiar with before shifting to distance learning. However, one tool that I found very helpful for student communication was Microsoft Teams. While I was hesitant to use this tool in the past, Microsoft certainly did its part in beefing up this once inferior program, to one that I felt confident in using with my students and recommending to other educators. The built-in chat function in Teams had been the primary way (outside of email) that my students and I were able to communicate regarding questions about their supplemental learning. Typically if a student had a question about an assignment, they sent me a quick message and I was able to provide an answer far quicker than before. I also found that students responded 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. Unfortunately, this feature was short-lived as my division decided to block it as a result of some inappropriate use from students at other schools. While this was disappointing for me at the time, I was very happy to hear that it has now been turned back on and can be utilized once again by teachers and students.
When it came to face-to-face (well kind of) interaction - something that was sorely missed during those long months at home - my students and I utilized the video chat function in Teams. This was probably the biggest reason that I had for using Teams as it allowed my students and I to meet multiple times per week and talk with one another. While the structure of the meetings started as a way to review the expectations each week, check-in with students and teach the odd lesson, these Teams meetings evolved into fun and engaging ways to connect. Throughout our time in supplementary learning, we used Teams video chats for Quizizz and Kahoot games, BINGO, SINGO, Scavenger Hunts, Mini Mystery Skypes and so much more. I am so grateful for my experience using Teams as it allowed my students and I to connect in fun and engaging ways that may not have been possible otherwise.
Out of all the tools I utilized last year, OneNote has probably been the one that I'm the most familiar with as I have been using it regularly within the classroom for the past five years. For anyone who is not familiar with OneNote, it is essentially a digital binder for your students, where they can take notes, complete work and view assessment feedback. Personally, I utilized OneNote a lot for housing written content and assignments as they were easily distributed to students and curated in the different sections of their OneNote. Students also could complete the assignments right in the OneNote app using the typing tool or draw tool if they had a stylus or a mouse. As Math was one of the main subjects taught during supplemental learning, OneNote became the primary tool I 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 was also a relatively seamless transition into distance learning as my students and I were already utilizing a Flipped Learning approach in our regular classroom. 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 using Explain Everything or PowerPoint, I would typically assign two videos for students to watch each week, along with an accompanying assignment for them to work on in their OneNote.
Below is a sample of what a typical Flipped Math lesson would look like:
Flipgrid & Kidblog
While OneNote was very useful for students to share their learning with me, it did have its limitations for sharing with others. The collaboration space within OneNote definitely could serve this purpose, but I found other tools such as Flipgrid and Kidblog to be far superior options. I really enjoyed using Flipgrid during Distance Learning as it allowed students to connect through conversation instead of written expression. Students had the opportunity to talk about their learning and then comment on their classmate's videos to begin a conversation.
I also continued using Kidblog as a means for students to share their written work with the class - which came in handy as we finished up our Book Clubs at the end of April. Kidblog is definitely one of my favourite tools to use as it allows my students to create engaging and interactive writing pieces that include videos, images and sometimes audio recordings. While most of the tools I've discussed today were free for me to use, I should warn you that this tool does come with a yearly subscription of 75 USD. However, with the purchase of one subscription, you can make multiple classrooms which could drastically reduce the cost if shared amongst several rooms in your school. If you would like to get a better idea of what a Kidblog post would look like, feel free to check out a student sample from my classroom blog from last year.
While (fingers crossed) I have not been required to shift to distance learning so far this year - I do feel that if it happened again - the transition would be relatively seamless for my students and I. So far this year we have utilized all the tools mentioned above on a daily or weekly basis within the classroom - which has allowed my students to become quite comfortable with these technology tools. If we were to shift online, I feel that my students would be able to continue using these tools on their own at home and be successful. While I am in no way hoping to test this theory out any time soon, I do recognize that there is a very real possibility of this occurring - especially with the uptick of cases in our province. If this does occur, I feel confident that my students and I will be able to draw on the learning experiences from last winter/spring as well as the preparation we have done so far this year to successfully transition to distance learning.
After this week's awesome presentation, we were left the task of viewing the video "Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking" before beginning our blog posts. As I'm sure was the case with many of my classmates, as I sat down to view the video, my attention only lasted a few short seconds before I tried to do other things while I watched. Instead of just sitting and focusing on the one task at hand, I also had time to put my dishes in the dishwasher, check my fantasy football scores on my phone and grab a drink from the fridge. While I could argue that I was more productive because I was able to accomplish four things instead of the single thing I started with, it became apparent that through trying to multi-task, I was unable to complete the most important task that I started with. Once I sat back down to view the end of the video, I had to zip back to the beginning of the video and watch it again, which meant that instead of taking four minutes to complete the task, it actually took eight. This in itself highlights the problem explained in the video - it is probably more productive to focus on only thing rather than trying to multi-task many at the same time.
With this in mind, I've made a conscious effort to focus only on this task today and see if my work time improves. To help with this I've placed my phone in a separate room, taken my Apple Watch off, closed all but two of my active tabs (I kept our Weekly Plan one open for reference) and ensured all other applications on my computer are closed. I'm not going to lie though, just 15 minutes in and I'm already struggling. My brain is so used to needing to focus for a short amount of time before I would switch to something else that it's been hard so far to keep myself on task. I find that every time a different thought comes to my mind I instinctively reach for my phone only to find it not there. It's crazy (and a little scary) that I have conditioned my brain to work this way each week. I wonder how long it will take me to get to a point where I'm able to fully concentrate on a task at hand without the urge to multi-task?
So, this naturally leads to the question posed to us in our blog prompt: Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions?
The more I thought about this question, the more I realized that the answer isn't a simple yes or no as there could be great arguments to be made on both sides. While my experience writing these posts would surely support the "endless distraction" side of technology, I also believe there are many tools online that aid in helping people become more productive. As many of my classmates have pointed out, there are many apps and tools online that can help us to be more productive when we are working on a task. Whether that be planning tools like Planboard or Planbook, self-control apps such as App Limits or SelfControl, or even hubs like OneNote or Google Classroom, if used the right way, could yield many benefits for productivity. However, like so many debates about technology, it has less to do with the technology itself, and more with how we use it. When utilized correctly, the internet (and technology) can help us to be far more productive than we were in the past.
Now, just bear with me for a second here - imagine having to write a term paper 30-40 years ago. What did this look like? Well for starters, the amount of time spent on finding resources would be immensely longer than it is today. Instead of utilizing the plethora of online databases to find articles or academic journals to cite in your paper, you would need to head to the library and spend time finding the physical copies to get your hands on. If that wasn't bad enough, you couldn't just use a simple keyword search (along with various filters) to find the exact articles you were looking for - which would exponentially increase the time spent to locate these resources. Then to make matters worse, you wouldn't have access to tools such as RefWorks or EasyBib to compile your references, which for a large paper, could be quite time-consuming. All in all, when comparing life with the technology we have today from those of the past, it's obvious that we have the potential to be far more productive today - but again it just comes down to how we use it.
As Neil Postman said in his article, Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change, "for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage." When comparing these words to the prompt for this post, it's clear that this is exactly the case for technology vs. productivity. As I've highlighted above, technology offers us many ways to achieve levels of productivity that people of the past could have only dreamed of. However, while there are certainly benefits with this technology, there is also the added disadvantage of being over-stimulated with things that could distract us from our tasks. As capable human beings, we can't blame the technology for these issues, but rather we need to hold ourselves accountable when we become distracted. Technology is only a tool (for good or bad), but people themselves ultimately harness the power in how to use it. If we take more responsibility for our use of technology, the issues discussed in this post would dissipate dramatically. As we move into the future, this is something that needs to be recognized as technology isn't going anywhere.
This week we were treated to a great presentation on how AV technology has evolved in education, and how educators are using it in today's classroom. We also ended the night with a short lecture by Alec, who showed us a short clip from Sesame Street and left us with the following quote to ponder:
"We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” - Neil Postman
If kids are used to this high production value entertainment for learning, anything else would seem boring and not very exciting - and I totally get that. Trying to replicate this level of entertainment in the classroom would be next to impossible due to budget and time constraints and also incredibly draining on the teacher. As Lisa expertly explained in her blog, this type of teaching would essentially be "6 hours every day of that high energy entertainment, it would be exhausting and tiresome, for both the student and the parent". So, if you thought teacher burnout rates were bad now...imagine if this was the expectation for all of us! In this regard, I definitely see where Postman was coming from, however, I do believe we need to explore his quote a little further as it was written in 1985, which was quite a long time ago.
When Postman mentioned that Sesame Street would undermine the "traditional idea of schooling", my first thought was "Okay, fair enough, but what is traditional teaching?". If we were to look at a "traditional classroom" for 1985, I would imagine this took the shape of lecture-based lesson delivery, blackboard, pencil/paper type of learning environment. As educators now, how many of us would be okay with this type of schooling? I'm going out on a limb here and guessing the number would be quite low. So my question would be, was it really so bad to "undermine" the traditional model, if (looking back) this model needed to be updated anyway? When we look at the types of learning that are happening in shows like Sesame Street, they may have been ahead of the game with some of the ways they were delivering education. I also wonder if it's possible that educational TV shows like Sesame Street, Magic School Bus or even Bill Nye had a positive ripple effect on shaping education today? We know that education does not look very similar to what it did 30, 40 or 50 years ago and while the advancement of technology and our understanding of education have certainly improved, I still wonder if some of the engagement strategies we use within the classroom, could have been inspired (at least in part) by educational entertainment?
While I went off on a little bit of a tangent there, I'll try to regroup and get back on topic! When exploring AV technology within classrooms today, I firmly believe that they have led to a higher quality of education due to the capabilities of each, and the enhancement of learning that wasn't possible before. When exploring some of the most common forms of AV we have in our classrooms such as data projectors and computers - they have allowed educators to significantly enhance their lessons to not only engage their students but also deliver higher quality education. As I thought about this, it reminded me of a colleague, who just last week used her projector and computer to skype with a Marine Biologist. Her students were able to learn first hand what a Marine Biologist does, and also ask questions about her job. This was something that was not possible without the technology and an experience that students may only have received in the past if they watched an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy (ripple affect anyone?).
However, like any tool in education, if we're not using the technology properly it's not going to be effective for our students. While educational technology is certainly very popular right now (as it should be), we need to be careful with how this technology is being utilized in a classroom. The emphasis should not be to make sure educators are using technology in a classroom, but rather ensuring its use enhances student learning. As Lisa also said in her blog," Like any sort of AV, it was a tool to help with instruction, not to take the place of instruction". This is a powerful quote as it really hits the point across that technology is a tool that educators can use to enhance their teaching practices - but should not be the basis of education. A poorly planned lesson is not magically fixed through the addition of technology, but an already great lesson can sometimes be enhanced with the addition of technology.
To conclude, as Shelby mentioned in her post, the SAMR model is such an important tool that educators can use to assess their level of technology integration in their teaching. Not every lesson needs to be at the Modification or Redefinition level, but simply using technology as a substitution for every lesson isn't effective teaching either as it may not be enhancing anything. As educators, we need to be cognizant of how and why we are using technology within our classrooms. We also need to remember that not every lesson or activity needs to include technology - and actually may be better off without it.
Really, these games were the only things we would do in 1999 and 2000 when we had access to our bulky IMB computers - which is a stark comparison to today where educational technology is used more often and for so many different outcomes. However, while games still exist today to help teach students concepts like typing or coding, we use technology more as a practical teaching tool to educate students in these skills because most educators have a far firmer grasp on technology than teachers did 20-30 years ago.
My Experience with Logo
While Logo was not a program that I was familiar with before this class, it was something that I enjoyed and something I know the younger version of me would also have spent a copious amount of time playing. I liked the problem-solving aspect of the program as it wasn't easy to get right on the first try. Often it took me five to ten trials to finally get the shape or design right, which was definitely frustrating, However, this also provided me with a great sense of accomplishment and I'm sure if anyone was perusing through the Zoom camera's during this time, they would have witnessed over-the-top celebrations that would have certainly drawn unsportsmanlike penalties in an NFL game. My experience with Logo reminded me of my experiences learning to code an Arduino this summer, albeit, with fewer celebrations.
Years ago I had bought an Arduino for my classroom as I figured coding couldn't that hard and my students would easily be able to figure it out. Well, what a mistake that was! As I learned more about coding, I understood that there was a major difference between using programs like Hour of Code or Microbit and programming a text-based Arduino. This led to some new experiences and many moments of frustration over the summer while learning to program this little computer. However, just as I felt accomplished when I was able to make a square on Logo, I felt the same sense of pride when I was able to make an LED blink on the Arduino breadboard. Both of these programs allowed me to problem solve, visualize my learning and gain a sense of accomplishment once I got it right - which are the main reasons why I believe Logo (and other programs similar to it) are still valuable in classrooms.
Coding in the Classroom
As I mentioned above, I think Logo (and other coding programs) are beneficial because they allow students to develop problem-solving skills and gain a sense of accomplishment when they complete each of the activities. In addition to these benefits, the article "5 Reasons Why Coding is Important for Young Minds", also outlines five important ways coding can help students:
When exploring Logo through the five points made in the article, it's not hard to see how each of these aspects could be achieved by using Logo with our students. Personally, aside from the problem-solving aspect, the first thing that came to mind was how beneficial a program like Logo would be to reinforce Math concepts - specifically angles, shapes and tesselations in the Grade 7/8 level.
Connection to Constructionism
As Tracy emphasized in her blog post, Constructionism is "When learners construct mental models to understand the world around them. Constructionism advocates student-centred, discovery learning where students use the information they already know to acquire more knowledge". When comparing this definition to Logo (and most coding programs), it couldn't apply any better. As I discussed above one of the major benefits of Logo was the notion that students would have to utilize problem-solving in order to achieve their goal. This would directly relate to the notion of discovery learning as students are learning skills in each of the mini-lessons that can be applied to further tasks, thus building on prior knowledge to achieve their goal. It also directly relates to the construction of mental models as the entire goal of the software is for students to build shapes on the screen, however, in order to do so, they need to first construct them mentally to figure out the process they will utilize to build the shape.
Overall, while I have utilized coding in the classroom in previous years I don't believe I've explored the benefits as deeply as I could have. The experience of using Logo, as well as expressing my thoughts through this blog post, have provided me with new insights into coding and given me fresh ideas into how I can integrate coding into my teaching in settings outside of Genius Hour or Makerspaces. I can't wait to explore Logo (and other coding programs) further throughout the year and finding new ways to engage my students through coding that I didn't know were possible before.
While I've enjoyed every one of the Ed Tech classes over the past three semesters, I think our class this week may have been one of favourites. While it may not have been as flashy or engaging as some of the previous classes, I enjoyed this particular class (as well as writing this post) because it led me down a path of self reflection. If I'm being honest, I haven't thought about theories of knowledge or learning since my undergrad when we first learned about them. Taking the time to go through each of these theories, was quite refreshing as it enabled me to critically evaluate the type of educator I am.
What Type of Educator Was I?
As Alec, took us on the tour of Knowledge Theories, I immediately connected with the Behaviourist theory of learning. While this may not be the theory that I would align myself with anymore, it definitely would fit with the teacher I was nine years ago in my first year of teaching. Looking back, I utilized this theory in everything I did as a first-year educator - especially classroom management. I was definitely of the mindset that my role as an educator was to fill my students with the knowledge, and as a result, I did "deliver" more lessons to my students, than actually "experience" the learning with them. This was probably most evident in my Math lessons as I was very concerned with how to produce the desired results (right answers) from my students, than anything else. As a result, the delivery of my lessons reflected this and I can't imagine they were the most engaging lessons for my students.
In addition to utilizing the behaviourist theory for curricular means, I also found myself gravitating to this model for classroom management as well. While I still believe that the behaviourist theory fits in this domain today, I think I approached it a little differently in the past than I do now. In the early stages of my career, I remember using tools like Class Dojo and other behaviour tools to help achieve the desired positive behaviour in my classroom. Essentially awarding points for positive behaviours, and withdrawing for negative ones. As I will talk about a little later - I learned that this particular method wasn't the best (especially the withdrawals for negatives) and moved away from Class Dojo and other similar models quite quickly, and shifted towards a more proactive practice instead of a reactive one.
Where Am I Now?
Jumping to the present, I believe that I have certainly changed in many ways since my first year of teaching. I understand that my beliefs and style have certainly shifted due to a combination of my experiences in the classroom, great mentors, and fellow colleagues. As I mentioned earlier, at the onset of my career I would definitely have classified myself as a Behaviouralist, but now I'm not sure if I would classify myself in only one of the theories. After examining a plethora of theories in Tuesday's class, it's become apparent that my current teaching practice has changed and now reflects a combination of theories as opposed to one singular belief.
1) Experiential Learning
This learning theory is definitely one that I see the most reflected in my classroom and a major part of my belief as an educator. As Lisa expertly mentioned in her post this week, experiential learning is very relationship-centered and these experiences with others can be "the most meaningful learning tool". I definitely agree with Lisa as I firmly believe that in order for learning to occur, students need to feel safe, comfortable, and connected to their teacher and classmates. As a result, much of my learning opportunities provide the students with the ability to communicate, collaborate form relationships with one another while they are learning.
I also believe that students need to feel engaged with the content of their learning, and a "hands-on" approach can be an incredible support to help students connect with the course content. A number of years ago, I remember having a discussion with Trevor, (and current classmate of ours) who was a colleague of mine, regarding my Science lesson from the day. I was disheartened and a little burned out because my students just weren't connecting with the content I was trying to teach them, and as a result, was dealing with disengaged students. Trevor, an energetic young teacher who was fresh out of university at the time, shared some great wisdom with me - it might be helpful if I used a more "hands-on", experiential approach with the content. While I never felt that I was a boring teacher, it was apparent that the method I was utilizing may have worked for a number of years prior, just wasn't cutting it anymore. Trevor gave me some great ideas for this lesson, which in turn, inspired me to reflect on my current practices, and ultimately led me to a more experiential teaching practice. To this day, I still credit Trevor for rejuvenating my teaching practices and helping me to become the educator I am today.
While I would certainly say that Experiential Learning is the largest theory that impacts my current teaching practice, it's evident that I've also got some sprinkles of cognitivism in there as well. As was explained in the article "Description of Cognitivism" by Mohammed Rhalmi, the learning process for this theory views students as "active participants in the learning process" and not just minds to be "filled with knowledge". Not only does this idea also connect with some of the fundamental beliefs of Experientialism, but it also outlines the idea that students are not tied to one strategy for learning, but may use various ones to "construct their personal understanding".
Even though I've shifted away from this particular theory, it's still clear to me that Behaviorism does have a place within my teaching practice - it's just far less prevalent than it was ten years ago. In the present, it's clear that while not utilized for curricular purposes, behaviourism still plays a major role in my classroom, more specifically, for classroom management and procedures. As I mentioned earlier, in the past I used this approach in my classroom through the addition and subtraction of points to help achieve the desired behaviours in my classroom. However, this approach was far more reactive than proactive, which is the best way to describe how my utilization of behaviourism has shifted. Instead of using this reactive method, my focus is now on highlighting and using behaviour specific praise for the positive behaviours within my classroom.
For this, I utilize our school-wide SWPBIS (School-Wide Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports) framework to highlight the specific positive behaviour that the student demonstrated. ex. "Thank you for showing respect holding the door open for your classmates". Staff all have tickets that can then be handed out to the student when they notice one of these positive behaviours, which in turn, are entered for a school-wide draw at the start of each week. While it could be argued that we are just bribing the students, I far prefer this method as you don't need to hand out tickets every time, as the goal of this strategy to use behaviour specific praise when we see these positive behaviours. This has also helped me as a teacher, in changing the way that I view behaviour in our school. Rather than only addressing the negative behaviours I see, I am now routinely looking and identifying the positive ones far more often.
Overall, I found it quite interesting to reflect and see how my teaching practices have changed over the last ten years. It also makes me wonder, if I changed this much in the first third of my career, what will my teaching practices look like in another ten or twenty years? Will the change or stay the same? I guess only time will tell. Check back in the year 2040 for my next update!
As I sat back this weekend reflecting on our previous class as well as a few of the readings, a famous quote by American astronomer Carl Saga came to mind - "You have to know the past to understand the present". While Carl may not have been referring to technology when he spoke these words, I feel that they definitely ring true when compared to this week's readings as well as education technology in general. Even though technology has evolved (and will continue to evolve) over time, it's still incredibly important to listen to what the past says to help guide our decisions in the present.
Although I definitely view myself as quite adept with the integration of ed-tech within my classroom, this week's readings really left me with a lot to think about in regards to my own experience and practice in relation to educational technology. The first reading that really resonated with me was "Five Things We Need To Know About Technological Change" by Neil Postman. In this article, Postman describes five main ideas to consider when utilizing new technology, and while the article may have been written 22 years ago, so much of what is described needs to be remembered in the present.
1. "Culture Always Pays a Price for Technology"
While the notion of "paying the price" may sound a little harsh, the reality that Postman describes is that "for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage". When comparing that to the present, it definitely makes a lot of sense when deciding what technology educators want to use within their classrooms. For example, student BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) definitely provides many educational opportunities to students within a classroom setting, such as alleviating the stress on shared devices within a school or providing students with more creative ways to demonstrate their learning. However, the inclusion of these devices also opens the door for possible negative consequences such as student distraction, cyberbullying, and privacy issues.
With this in mind, as educators, we need to take the time to do our "due diligence" when integrating new technologies within our classroom and ensure that the advantages of the technology outweigh the disadvantages.
2. "There Are Always Winners and Losers in Technological Change"
Two key understandings that I took from this idea is the notion that regardless of the technology, it is never distributed evenly among the population and also benefits some but may harm others. Unfortunately, this idea became glaringly obvious during the COVID19 lockdown as the size of the technological gap was exposed when schools tried to shift to a distance learning model. While many students who had the technology at home benefitted greatly from this type of learning, those who didn't have access to the devices (or internet) were initially unable to participate. Thankfully in many cases, school divisions were able to lend out technology to those students and families who needed it, but it highlighted a major problem in our society that had been swept under the rug for many years.
As an educator, I've had to do my legwork in this area to ensure the ways that I'm utilizing technology will be fair and equitable for all my students. One example of this would be my use of the Flipped Classroom when teaching Math. For this to work, I need to ensure all my students have access to technology and the internet at home, otherwise, the entire model wouldn't work as some students would be unable to learn the key concepts for the following day. While I haven't come across this situation yet, but if I do, I would need to transition back into a more traditional model of teaching Math for that school year.
A Screenshot from my Flipped Math Website:
3. "The Medium is the Message"
Postman further explains that "every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards". As I read this statement, I immediately drew comparisons between Postmans third idea and the SAMR Model. The notion that it's less about what technology we're using, and more about how it's being used and the benefits it can have on the individual. For example, providing students with a word document to write a response simply substitutes technology instead of a pencil and paper. However utilizing a blog that allows students to embed video, audio, and connect with others online provides them to use more of their "minds", be more creative and utilize the technology to create something that wasn't previously possible.
4. "Technology Change is Not Additive, It's Ecological"
My main takeaway from this idea is that new technology typically transforms the current climate where it is integrated. One example Postman uses is the television in America, and as he explains "It wasn't America plus the television, television gave a new colouration to everything", so essentially, everything changed as a result of this new technology. When I compared this idea to my own life, it reminded me of computers in the classroom, but more specifically the 1-1 environment that I've had the good fortune to teach in over the past five years. As a Connected Educator participant, I can firmly say that my classroom didn't just become a typical room with the addition of computers, but instead transformed into a Connected Educator Classroom. Having these readily available devices for my students has not only changed the way that I teach but also the ways that my students can demonstrate their learning.
Overall, I believe that Postman was way ahead of his time when he created these five main ideas regarding new technology. However, when we examine each of these in detail it becomes glaringly obvious that they couldn't be more relevant in today's world. As educators, we have a responsibility to review each of these ideas before making a decision to implement new technology within our classrooms.
Hello and welcome to my blog for EC&I 833! 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 I'm looking forward to exploring the history of different technologies as well as the theoretical applications of technology within education. I look forward to learning with all of you as we navigate this journey together!