Educational Technology

When I think about educational technology, I find it has changed a lot over the past year due to the circumstances we are currently in.  Some teachers may have already been doing this but others were forced to move our classrooms online. Now that we have returned to school and things are still different.  The push is for more use of technology in the classroom and no longer using paper and pens to complete assignments.  However, this push been around long before Covid-19.  It has always been a heavily debated topic as some people have different views on if the use of technology is always a positive thing.  Not only that, but everyone has their own opinion on what tools are the most appropriate and have the largest influence regarding our students learning.  Educational technology uses various types of media, technological processes and educational resources to help improve users academic performance.

The way educational technology has evolved over the years is crazy to think about.  I have been teaching for ten years already (that seems crazy, I still feel like a newbie) and the amount of change in our classrooms is drastic.  We now have class sets of chromebooks, Ipads and laptop carts for all of our classrooms. Our computer labs are no longer filled with students but instead they are filled with dated computers that are broken or not updated. This is a lot different than the classrooms I grew up in many years ago.  We thought it was pretty darn cool when that TV came rolling into the classroom.  You just hoped that the VHS had been rewinded so the teacher did not have to do that.  If you sat at the back of the classroom you had to dodge from side to side to see around those shifting in their seats in front of you. 

Now we project a movie on the board that is streamed and you can easily see it from anywhere in the classroom.  If it is a short clip, you can access the link on Google Classroom and watch it on your own with your own computer and headset.  This got me thinking about the article, “Five Things We Need to Know about Technological Change” and how the point about technological change is an ecological change because, “A new medium does not add something; it changes everything” (p.4).  The way we teach, the things we have access to and the way we are able to help our students engage and learn is forever changed.  So many of the new technologies are forced on us and this new tool becomes our normal. 

                With the ecological change of new technologies, it also brings challenges.  This is why we need to be aware of what innovations we are bringing forward.   Another point that was brought up about technological change, was that “every new technology benefits some and harms others” (Postman P. 2).  With the integration of more technology we can further the digital divide and leave some students struggling to meet outcomes when they do not have access to the same media and tools that others do.  Every learner is able to learn in different ways, technology can help with that, but it can also make things more challenging for some.  This ties in “The Media Debate”.  In this debate, Richard Clark and Robert Kozma argue over the use of technology and its affects on our learning.  Clark feels that “It cannot be argued that any given medium or attribute must be present in order for learning to occur, only that certain media and attributes are more efficient for certain learners, learning goals and task.” (Clark 1994:22).  To further his point, Clark insists on the replicability test: and “Whenever you have found a medium or set of media attributes which you believe will cause learning for some learners on a given task, ask yourself if another (similar) set of attributes would lead to the same learning result.  Therefore, is the use of technology helping us learn more or is it just a tool we use to express what knowledge we have?  

On the other hand, Kozma feels that “learning with media is a complementary process within which a learner and a medium interact to expand or refine the learner’s mental model of a particular phenomenon”. Therefore Kozma (1994) concludes “If we move from “Does media influence learning?” to “In what ways can we use the capabilities of media to influence learning for particular students, tasks, and situations?” we will both advance the development of our field and contribute to the improvement of teaching and learning.”

I used to think that I was pretty good at integrating technology in my classroom.   However, after taking my last class with Alec, I realized I had a lot to learn and I was not using the technology to its full capacity.  There is so much out there that we do not even realize and I think that is part of the problem.  Teachers are not aware of what educational technology they have access to.  On top of that, if they do know what they can use, they do not know how to use it to its full potential.  We are often provided with new sources of technology in our schools but there is little to no training on how to use them.   We hear about google slides, Kahoot, coding, virtual reality options and so much more but yet we rarely get the proper training on what we can do to integrate them properly into our classroom.  I think that is why I enjoy these classes so much.  I learn about so many new high-tech interactive and collaborative tools that can be used effectively in our classrooms.   I cannot wait to see what new things I can incorporate into my teaching after taking this class!

Summary of Learning

I cannot believe this class has already come to a close. It has been such a great experience and I have learned so much. Each debate challenged me to think about the way I use technology in my classroom. Daina guided me through the process of creating my blog and creating videos for our debate and for our summary of learning. Combining with her was the perfect way to summarize EC&I 830. Sharing ideas back and forth really got me thinking and allowed me to challenge my own teaching and growth. Mashing this video together for my first time on weVideo was a lot of fun.

I hope you enjoy our Summary of Learning!

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ED. Tech Debate #7

Our final debate argued that educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice. It was one for the books. Jacquie and Mike opened the argument with a well done video in favour of this. They focused on how essential social justice is in our schools and how it is important for us to teach our students about things that are happening in our world. So often they are focused on what is happening within their own circle, they are oblivious to the bigger picture. If it does not directly affect them then they are not following. They brought up four components of why this is import:
– it challenges and confronts stereotypes
– provides students with resources needed to learn to their full potential
– it draws on student talents and strengths like language, culture and personal experiences
– it promotes critical thinking
I felt these were four great ways to summarize what they felt was important. As educators, our job is to teach our students and provide them with the information they need in order to form their own opinions and make their own choices. We cannot push our own opinions on them. We need them to think critically of the situation and use that background knowledge we have provided them to take their own stand.

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Our current state of the world is a prime example of young people fighting for social justice. Between the opinions on the covid-19 pandemic, #BlackLivesMatter movement and many other situations, our society is full of opinions and opportunities to fight for social justice. I believe these topics are full of learning opportunities in the classroom based on some discussions you could be having with your students. I also think some biases and own personal views could come into play and educating on all sides would tough. Teaching the facts over opinions is what is important. Let the students form their own opinions when they have received ALL the facts! If we want to see a change in regards to social justice, it comes from educating our youth!

Another point Mike made was that there are three types of a justice oriented citizens. There is the person that is a personally responsible citizen, the participatory citizen and the justice-oriented citizen. I really appreciated that as the discussion went on and someone made a comment about a specific situation, Mike would chime in what kind of justice oriented citizen that person was portraying. It was very subtle but also drove home the point that they were trying to make. I really felt Mike and Jacquie were meant to debate. They had a long list of facts and famous people to quote. They really knew their material and were very persuasive speakers. I can only imagine how engaged their students are when they are teaching on a topic they are passionate about.

Brad and Michala came back with a great argument. The video was entertaining. I knew Brad would come up with something fantastic but I never imagined we would get to see so many sides of him. On a more serious note, the one thing I really took away from their side of the debate was that yes teaching about social justice is important but using social media as a platform is not the best approach. I thought Brad’s example of his own teaching experience was a great reflection on this. The internet trolls (which they also mentioned) jumped to conclusions and made assumptions about a project that really was a great learning opportunity, improved our community and was student-lead.

Social media often leaves out important parts of a story and people can get the wrong impression. It is not always the best way to share information. When Michala made the comment about big meetings are always done in person. They are not completed over the phone or online. It is through face to face discussion because they are more valuable, genuine and productive when you can be in another’s presence. This made me think of my current IIP meetings. In June, I am often having multiple meetings with families to talk a students growth over the year and the next steps moving forward. They are also done with a team in a group setting around one table. Sometimes those conversations are tough and being in a room together is important. I have really noticed that this spring as those meetings are now being done over zoom. The connection and productivity of those meetings is just not at the same caliber. Some conversations are just meant to be in person. Like Alyssa mentioned in the chat, “I think we have a lot of valuable discussions in our classrooms because everyone involved knows it is a safe space. Online does not feel like a safe space like how Michala was talking about her daughter’s experience”.

As with most of the debates we have had, I leave feeling both sides made great points. Social Justice is important and needs to be taught in our classrooms but the approach we use is what we need to be cautious about. Moderation again is important and knowing when to post something online and how we go about the post is what we need to be aware of. I leave another debate reflecting on my own practices and how I can be better!

Ed Tech Debate #6

I did not know what to expect from this debate. The topic was openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids. I came into this debate not really sure how I felt. Both teams did a fantastic job of arguing their sides and brought some really good points to the table. I left the debate still a little unsure of what side I was on.

Altan and Melinda created a wonderful video jam packed with information. They opened up with those lovely packets of information that go home at the beginning of the school year. Students are asked a million questions and they have to sign off on each page. Some pages are even multiple signatures. By the end this gets to be tedious and the parents are losing focus on what they are signing. Not to mention our EAL families that struggle with the wording in the first place. I can only imagine how overwhelming this could be. I felt I really related to this as we have a lot of EAL families in our school. Majority of the students I work with are from an EAL background. It made me think maybe we need to make sure those families have supports to get through these forms in the fall. A SWIS worker was mentioned by the opposing side as a way to help these families out. We are fortunate that the SWIS worker in our division has her office right in our school. So she is easily accessible to help us out most of the time. However, I still feel the families do not fully understand what it is they are signing off on. I think the EAL approach to this debate topic is the part that really stuck with me. Obviously because that is such a real part of my current situation. Even when I look at our school facebook page we have little response from our community. If you look closely at who is making comments or liking posts it is not our EAL families. It got me wondering if this is because of the language barrier and they are unaware of the page. Or is it because they just do not have social media. I really do think it is because they are unaware of it. I think that is a huge takeaway from this debate. Making sure my EAL families are aware of the things we do share on twitter or on facebook or on our webpage.

Of course digital divide was brought up as it is in most debates about technology in education. It was interesting hearing “What is the point in posting if no one is looking? Are we just posting to compete with other schools?” It does make you think. I really do believe some schools use their accounts as a way of posting what they have over the others but in a way isn’t that what a lot of people are doing when they post? Bragging about the good things that are happening? I guess it is all in how the post is written. Celebrating our success as a school and the success of our students is important. Like Alec mentioned, parents like to see their kids highlighted in social media. I remember growing up and opening the newspaper to see who they included in the picture for my sports team write ups. I loved seeing my teammates or myself being represented in the paper. I believe students today would feel that same pride when they see their face being bragged about on the schools page. I guess that is where the education piece comes in and we teach our students about being humble but still having a sense of pride for their accomplishments.

Dean once again proved he is meant to be a TV host or the next anchorman. However, Sherrie’s Mercer rant was one to remember. I have watched it a few times to really grasp all the points she was making. I chuckled a little at the comment about no more lost notes. How often does that agenda go home and things are not signed or notes are found on the floor at the end of the day. Parents are on their phones. No doubting that. Remind or a school facebook post to remind parents about a HOT LUNCH ON THURSDAY would probably prove to be more beneficial. I also loved the comment about teaching our students to be more informed posters, Matt said “Building those skills about proper sharing because when they get older they will do that anyways so if we teach them the skills then they will do it safely!” I really feel this is an important part of what can go wrong with students on social media. Knowing how to post and what information to include could really help keep the negative aspects of online sharing away. This goes for teachers and other school personnel too. If it is presented ethically it isn’t unfair to the students. Overall, it was a fantastic debate and one that really challenged my thinking and the way I do things as a teacher but also how our school uses openness to reach our learning community. Well done both sides!

ED. Tech Debate #5

I think this was the debate that shifted my thinking the most. The topic, cell phones should be banned in classrooms. As a primary elementary teacher I have little experience with students in my classroom carrying a cell phone or using one for educational purposes. It just wasn’t something that my students had access to. So as a teacher I never really thought of the benefits to having a cell phone in my students hands during class time. I know how easily my phone can distract me so I figured the same would go for them. I found it easy to relate to the agreeing side of this argument. What I did not expect was my shift in thinking. Both sides did a great job of highlighting their sides and these are a few takeaways I had.

Jill and Tarina shared a great video full of facts and other short clips emphasising why cell phones should be banned in the classroom. I found the segment on the tally collection of notifications during a 30 minute time frame shocking. It is no wonder kids these days are spending a significant amount of time on their phones and on social media if their phones are going off that often. I know for myself personally I struggle with leaving notifications on my phone. If I have my hands full or I am doing something that is keeping me busy I will leave it but for the most part I need to look and see what caused my phone to buzz. I can only imagine a lot of students would be the same way.

The video Jill and Tarina shared built off of this point. It talked about physical seperation from the phone being the only way to really avoid the distraction. You have to check it out for yourself!

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The video also mentioned students could use the cell phones to cheat on tests or use them for cyberbullying during classtime. If that happens then everyone will be sneaking a peak at their device to follow the latest drama.

Another point in favour of banning cell phones in class was the common theme of digital divide. Not everyone has a cell phone let alone a smart phone. If teachers are requiring students to use their cell phone in class for educational purposes that it is putting pressure on parents to provide a device for theirs kids. For some this is an added stress they do not need. Instead of using cell phones, they argued that school divisions are spending more money on technology so that classrooms have enough chromebooks or laptops for students to use. I liked how they mentioned that cooperation skills, team building and many other skills are developed by students when they are required to share a textbook or a computer for an assignment. I think this is a very important point to think about because so often students struggle with this. Not to mention they are lacking communication skills since a majority of kids conversations are through the use of technology nowadays. Overall, I felt that they made a lot of great points and I still felt cell phones did not belong in the classroom.

Skyler and Alyssa made some strong counter arguments in favour of cell phones in the classroom. Some students rely on their cellphones for medical reasons like those that test their glucose levels using the cell phone. Also students with disabilities may use them as a means of communication. They talked about how if you have a classroom with a high level of students with cell phone devices you may as we use them to your advantage. Incorporate phones into your lessons. They provided an article that had 20 apps that students can use in a positive way. I really appreciated that. I will be checking these out for sure. Teach about the expectations of cell phone use in the classroom and create a plan with your students. One example that was provided was the stoplight approach. I liked this idea because it allows the students to use their phones but it also teaches them self-control and when they need to be ignoring their phones.

I think the group discussion is where I felt the shift in what I believed. I am still not completely sold but I think it is the reality and I need to accept it. A lot of classmates shared their own experiences and that helped open my eyes to the possibility of positive experiences in the classroom. Mike mentioned how his students use the phones as a second screen when working in the computer. I can see this as I often do it too when I am working on something. This is why I like the stop light approach. If students follow it they are using the phones at appropriate times and then put them away when they do not need the distraction. Of course they may still check social media but for the most part they will manage work and play in an appropriate manner.

Of course I still am a bit apprehensive because not everything goes as planned. You will still have those students that take advantage of this or they will use the phones inappropriately. This is just like anything in our schools. Sherrie mentioned how the camera’s can be used in a negative way. This was also a concern of mine. Like I mentioned previously, I don’t have much experience with my students having access to a cell phone. However, now that I am working in middle years we have had a few students bring their phone to school. They are not supposed to have them in the classroom or outside at lunch or recess. Of course they do not listen all the time. On multiple occassions we have had students making a Tik Tok or taking a snapchat of other students or even of the teacher while they are teaching and without their permission. This concerns me. I feel this may be one of the reasons I was not in favour of phones in the classroom. They can easily be made to make fun of peers.

At the end of the debate I felt my mind had shifted. I am still a little apprenhensive of phones in an elementary classroom. However, I do see some of the advantages to allowing them in the classroom. Guidelines need to be in place and a level of cooperation from both the teacher and the students is required to make it successful. I do know that I like to have my phone on my desk in case daycare calls or even to use for teaching purposes. I try and model self-control and avoid using it for personal reasons. Like Skyler and Alyssa said….. Don’t make a BAN…have a PLAN!

Ed. Tech Debate #4

Is social media ruining childhood? This is probably one of the most debatable topics out there and not just among educators and parents. There are a lot of opinions on this and at this point it is really hard to say if it is or if it is not. I felt last night our class had a great discussion trying to find the answer. Some people were very passionate about how they feel and brought up some points that really resonated with me. I think my views shifted a bit because of this debate but like it was mentioned last night, we haven’t seen the true effects of social media just yet because it is still in its early stages. We see some results but what will the results be ten or twenty years from now? Just like smoking, it was promoted until we learned that it was actually bad for you. Maybe we will see the more of the good in social media as time rolls on, but then again maybe not.

Laurie and Christina created a wonderful video that was based off a fairytale story line. They added a personal connection by using their own childhood photos to emphasize that children growing up used to be free and could explore the world with their own creativity as their guide. I thought this was a great touch as it brought back memories of myself growing up and exploring out at the lake. We didn’t have tv or anything out there. Just the great outdoors and our imagination. My parents now live out there full time and I can only hope I can allow my daughter to create those same great memories by finding that balance between social media/technology and living in the moment and exploring outdoors.

Me on the left, my daughter on the right. Same beach… same life jacket…new memories.

Laurie and Christine brought up some great points that seem to be the common topic when it comes to the negative side of social media. These included the increase in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide, the fact that kids are seeking attention and validation from their peers by analyzing every like and comment they get, how distracted we have become by the social media platforms and also the dangers that are found on social media. I think these are all valid points and concerns that can be argued. Not every child will suffer the same consequences of using social media and I believe as educators and parents we need to teach our children moderation and smart use of instagram, snapchat, tiktok and facebook. We need to make sure we are present in our kids lives to know what is going on with social media. This is a fine line between being aware and maybe infringing on their privacy but hopefully there is a way to find balance there. One comment that was made was that parents are also distracted due to social media. This point really hit home with me. I find so often I am just aimlessly cruising through facebook, instagram and snapchat looking for nothing in particular. I hate to admit it but I spend way too much time on these apps especially when I could be spending time with my daughter. It isn’t just kids that social media is affecting. I find I am addicted to checking it and almost just check it out of habit.

I think the mental health piece is an important one. The constant checking of likes and comments, the posting of pictures that have gone through a million filters and then the negative comments that come with them are what really worry me. Yes we have always wanted to fit in with our peers. Yes we have always compared ourselves to magazine images and so on. However, the volume of photos we can compare to and the frequency of it is much higher. It is also more personal. We are comparing to our friends on another level. Cyberbullying is now part of the equation. People have the courage to voice their opinions behind the screen. Bullies are bullies and they would do it no matter what. Sure. But there are a lot more people that will voice their opinion on social media that wouldn’t dare speak up to people in person. We say we need to educate our kids about the proper use of social media but yet tonnes of adults are keyboard warriors ready to attack others for any comment they make on a public post.

It was very clear to me that some people are pretty passionate about what side of the fence they are on in this debate. I love seeing that kind of passion! It also helped me see some more of the positives in the use of social media. Don’t get me wrong I am not totally against it. I just am not all in at this point. Like I said I waste my fair share of time on it. I appreciated some of the points Dean and Amy made. It made me realize the positives in social media that I always knew were there just never gave them credit for. The ability to connect with family around the world through facebook posts or a quick snapchat video and my favourite the ability to reach out to others to help them deal with something they are working through. The fact that young kids that could be struggling for various reasons (LGBQT, mental health, disability, loneliness, etc…) they have a tool they can use to reach out to others experiencing the same thing. Unfortunately, I have friends that have terminally ill children. They have found comfort in social media groups by finding other families experiencing the same situations. Sometimes we just can’t relate to what others are going through unless we have gone through it ourselves. That is where social media has filled that gap. That to me is amazing. A huge positive! Honestly, this point is what stuck with me the most out of this whole debate! Without social media these connections wouldn’t be as easily accessible. The response wouldn’t be immediate and the support just wouldn’t be as strong.

Like Nataly said, ” Moderation is key here. In the time of magazines, TV and Radio, we didn’t read, watch and listen to them 24/7. They were part of our lives but not all of it!” Social media is great. It has allowed immediate connection to those from afar. It can educate us on matters of the world (if they are legit sources being shared) and let’s be honest they can be fun. Social media is changing childhood and not necessarily ruining it. We just need to make sure we adapt to the changes in a positive way. Get sucked into the positives of social media rather than the negative side. In life, in general, we will run into negative people and we need to learn how to deal with that. As teachers and parents we need to provide our children with these skills. We also need to educate them about the proper use of social media, the dangers and the positives we can use it for. And of course we need to teach our kids to BE KIND!!!!

At the end of the day we all know connection is what we really want. Some seek it on social media because they are lacking it in their real life. However, that is false connection in a lot of cases. I get that social media has helped during this pandemic because kids have been able to stay connected to their peers. You know what I have noticed… families posting pictures of game nights they are finally having… movie nights… nights by the fire and many other family activities that they have finally made time for because they have slowed down, lived in the moment, and seeked connection with those present with them. If we are present with those that mean the most to us and building connections with them offline… maybe the consequences of online connection won’t be negative ones!?

The Debate that Never Was…

Disclaimer: This post was created in collaboration with Daina to summarize the information we collected to defend our position on the debate statement:

Schools should NOT focus on teaching things that are easily googled.

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We choose to disagree with this statement because we feel that schools SHOULD still teach things even though you can easily Google them.  As teachers, we need to teach students the curriculum concepts that you can Google because we have the ability to teach them these same concepts beyond what Google is able to provide.  Much of what they can find on Google, although quick and easy, is one dimensional.  There is no connection between you and what you search online.  It is a one way interaction.  Teachers are able to teach the same concepts beyond what Google can because we can elaborate, help students make connections that are relevant to them personally, and can go beyond the basic information that google provides.  We can teach students how to think critically with this information, be the knowledge keeper or expert for those who don’t have access to this information, and provide them with the basics that will help build their foundation for future learning. Therefore, Google isn’t the answer!  It is simply a one dimensional tool that holds a small aspect of value with regards to educating our world.  

Critical Thinking

When students simply look up facts using Google to learn their curriculum, they are lacking the essential skill of critical thinking.  They want the quick answer and move on, which doesn’t expose them to the learning process.  Critical thinking is defined as the “art of filtering through information to reach an unbiased, logical decision that guides better thought and action.”  This is where teachers fit into the picture.  We can provide students skills to use the basic information they learn from us, or Google, in order to go to the next step.  This includes knowing what to do with that information to make sense of it, make it purposeful, and apply it.  This is all done by using analytical thinking, communication, creativity, open-mindedness, and problem-solving.  Although information can be found on Google, it doesn’t provide you these critical thinking skills.  Therefore, reading information online doesn’t mean that you learn and understand it.  We need to teach kids more than just how to Google something.  

Digital Divide

Everyday in our schools we are faced with a digital divide.  Not all families have access to internet in their communities, the internet they may have might not be able to support a high enough broadband speed to download the content and some families may not be able to afford the price of internet.  This is evident right now in my classroom as parents from an EAL background or those that do not have computers at home are struggling to access google classroom or zoom because they are not familiar with these programs and their children need the help to gain access.  Therefore, we cannot rely on our students googling their curriculum, we need a teacher to be able to teach so that the subject matter is relevant to the audience in the class.  Everyone learns at a different rate, no matter their age.  Some students come into their first years of education with different technical skills.  Some students can navigate a computer or an ipad while others don’t even know how to hold a book.  Students that have internet access and access to technology have consistent digital access to hardware, software, wifi use and mobile data and therefore have the foundational requirements for being able to build and maintain digital literacy.  This is why teachers in all schools should teach things even though you can easily google them.  

Back to Basics 

The basics of education are reading, writing, creativity and nutrition and health.  By making sure our students are provided with these basic skills, we are ensuring they will be successful.  Memorization has an important place because it exercises the brain by training the mind to pay attention and focus intensely.  It also activates a higher level of thinking.  We need to learn information through experience and have opportunities to apply the information in different situations.  We have to learn from our mistakes, we can’t always be right.  There is more to learning than just searching for the right answer online.  We read to gain information and we write to convey it.  Reading all our information online is not suitable for all students.  Some are not able to read at the level at which information is presented.   Also, some learners are auditory learners and they gain more of an understanding through auditory means than through reading means.   Teachers will often personalize explanations of learning content to suit the needs of the students in their classroom.  Math is a perfect example as there are so many strategies that we are teaching because our brains are not all wired the same.  We still need to teach the basics of math because we need to be able to use these skills to quickly solve larger algorithms.  Spelling practice also allows us to be more efficient when we are writing.   Jacquie made a comment last night about how beginning readers need to memorize sight words to help them with their early stages of reading.  These sight words are words that we cannot use our decoding skills to sound out. As teachers, we need to continue to teach the basic skills even though google can help us find the answer.  

Take Away

Although Google is a prominent entity in our society, we can’t pretend that it provides us with all the information and skills needed to educate our youth.  We also can’t ignore that it is a useful tool, when used properly, that can provide students with up to date information for which they can formulate opinions based on facts and ideas presented to them.  It is a powerful tool but needs to be used in balance with other holistic/comprehensive approaches that fit the needs of all of our students and their learning needs.  Perhaps the question is not whether schools should or shouldn’t teach things that are easily Googled, but rather schools should NOT rely on traditional forms of teaching and assessment.  We should re-evaluate our instructional approaches, redefine our assessment techniques, and teach students hard and soft skills in conjunction with each other in order for students to benefit going forward into the world. 

Ed. Tech Debate #2

This weeks debate was if technology is a force for equity in society. This topic is a tough one to choose a side on but both sides did a great job sharing their point of view. Not only that but they handle the power outage and internet connection issues like champs.

Kalyn and Natayl started us off by agreeing with this statement. They made a lot of great points but a few that stuck out to me was the point about how technology allows people with disabilities to communicate and take part in classes, learning opportunities and other online experiences. I think this is a point that is tough to argue with. Yes it can be expensive to buy some of the tools required to carry out these actions but the opportunity is there. The possibilities are endless as long as people are aware of what options they have. Mike mentioned how Xbox has created an adaptive controller for those that require a different option. I had no clue this was out there. This made me wonder how many people are missing out just because they are unaware of what is out there. Or maybe I just don’t know about the controller because it isn’t something I need.

The other point they made in their video was that texting is leading children to becoming obsessive readers and writers. I struggled with this a bit as I do not see how texting can translate to the other. Yes they are reading and writing frequently but the caliber of text does not seem the same as books or other articles they could be reading. So often students use slang or abbreviations in their texts. The content of the texts is likely not a higher level of thinking. When I think of children that are obsessive readers, I think of a child with their nose in a book, using their imagination to picture what is happening, building on their vocabulary and expanding their comprehension skills. Texting to me is not the same. Unless maybe I am texting wrong!

Overally, I felt Nataly and Kalyn did a good job sharing their point of view. They made some strong points and even added some personal connections that made it very interesting.

On the other side, Victoria and Jasmine battled back with a strong argument against if technology is a force for equity in society. The common theme of digital divide was argued among other things. The one that really stood out to me was when they stated other equity issues still remain such as “special education services, food and nutrition, English learner services, and child care.” This point really got me thinking. So many issues with equity can be improved through technology but some of them cannot. Not only that, but those that struggle often cannot afford technology in their homes. It isn’t a priority for them and that is understandable.

Another point they made was that students with disabilities can be overwhelmed with technology. I have seen this first hand, especially during the current pandemic. The struggle with the material is one thing but having to navigate a computer on top of that would be tough. The parents also are not prepared to help their children with the technology if they are unfamiliar with it. It is an added stress that no one needs. I think that is where understanding the possibilities of what is available to us is important. Maybe the technology they are using is not the best fit for their disability. For some it may be a game changer but for others it is the tipping point!

I really enjoyed the group discussion during this debate. It was neat to hear others perspectives and what they had to say. Three takeaways from that was:

1) We had more families request take home packets than online learning. This was very clear with the students I work with. I imagine at another school they would have more students wanting online learning but even then I think those higher economic schools were even surprised how many students asked for paper work over electronic.

2) Technology keeps changing and costs more the more it changes so we need to stay on top of that.  I think this is where the spread continues to happen. People cannot keep up with the changing technology because it costs so much to upgrade. I am an apple user but they are famous for this. Upgrade the phone and now all of a sudden you have a different charging cable you need. None of the attachments or speakers you had will work now so you have no choice but to upgrade.

3) We so often think of the general public when we talk about these topics. Again, this is a debatable topic but it really does have a strong statement. Those wealthy enough to afford the best technology continue to have access to it and use it before anyone else. Those that cannot afford it continue to struggle to afford it. Not only that, but by the time they do they are unfamiliar with how to use it because they have not had the exposure!

Overall it was a fantastic debate and it really got me thinking!

ED. Tech Debate #1

I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened on Tuesday during the first debate. The topic was “Technology in the classroom enhances learning!” I had no clue what to expect coming into this debate. It is a fence I straddle regularly and so I was anxious to hear what Nancy and Amanda would say in favour of this topic, while also hearing what Matt and Trevor had to say in opposition. I never could have imagined what came out of it. I found myself engaged and eager to hear what the next party might say. I found myself changing my own opinion constantly as the debate went on.

Coming into this debate the odds were heavily on the side of agreeing with the fact that technology enhances learning. Technology is a huge part of our everyday life, especially right now, so it is hard to argue that it isn’t helping with learning. Nancy and Amanda did a fantastic job of expressing those points and used a personal connection that benefits Amanda currently. They mentioned how technology is allowing us to still connect with our students and continue learning through zoom, google meet, microsoft teams, seesaw or whatever else we may be using. However, take Covid-19 out of the equation and that point may not have been as strong since it wouldn’t be our main form of teaching. On that point tho, technology has still allowed us to teach behind the walls of our classroom. Classes have communicated with people all around the world, they have researched or virtually visited places on the other side of the globe. One article they shared was “Technology can close achievement gaps, improve learning“. It “identifies three important components to successfully using technology with at-risk students: interactive learning, use of technology to explore and create rather than to “drill and kill,” and the right blend of teachers and technology”. I found this statement to be a strong one because I can personally relate. I have a handful of students that rely on a computer to complete work. Without this support they are unable to express their true understanding of the material, they become frustrated and disengage and they fall further behind their classmates. We have seen an improvement in their learning and classroom engagement since allowing them the use of a computer. I also think this brings up another point Nancy and Amanda made. They said a good teacher cannot be replaced by technology but rather make a good teacher better. Students are naturally engaged when they have access to a computer. At least it seems that way as they work away at their desk. If it is on-task work that is another question for later on! I agree that a good teacher can become better by the use of technology but that is only if they know how to use it. If they have been taught, have the experience to really demonstrate and utilize all the tools that are out there. This also made me wonder, does it make me a bad teacher if I am not using technology to its fullest potential? I have seen some amazing activities done by teachers and I think wow where did they come up with that idea. While I have also seen teachers that have used technology and it has totally crushed any momentum they have had with students learning. It is such a fine line, and I believe that is where, as educators, we can really use technology to benefit us…. if we know how to use it ourselves!

I am not sure if it was the suit and tie, the matching background or the fact that Matt and Trevor put together a strong argument against technology in the classroom but they sure swayed the polls in their favour by the end of the debate. Maybe it was all three!

The two points that came up that I want to focus on are ones that stood out to me. The first one being the distraction of technology in the classroom. This has been one I always questioned. My main work has been in primary classrooms so I never had to deal with teaching students with cell phones so I cannot speak first hand to this. I coached at a high school level and if I sent my players a text at recess time I would receive a response almost instantly. I knew they were answering texts in class and it made me question how focused they were to their teacher at that time. That was one message from me, I can only imagine how many more they received from friends. I know for myself, my phone is a distraction if I have it near me during staff meetings or classes. It blows my mind how often I find myself mindlessly scrolling through social media. Matt and Trevor shared an article titled, “Leave it in the Bag“. The main point of this article stated that students at West Point, “perform better academically when laptops and tablets are banned from the classroom”. I found this article very interesting because it was something I could relate to. As a student, I was easily distracted by others that brought their laptops to class. I found the screen would grab my attention even though I was not the one using it. Some students were taking notes or following along but more often than not I would see students playing games or cruising through pinterest or whatever else that was unrelated to class. I guess this is where the teachers role can affect how distracted students are by their technology. I think the closing mark in the article can speak to that… “Students at West Point are highly incentivized to earn high marks, professors are expected to interact with their students during every lesson and class sizes are small enough that it is difficult for students to be completely distracted by their computer without the professor noticing”.

The other point was the emphasis Trevor made on Amanda’s comment about the 4 C’s (Critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity). He talked about how it can be hard to be creative on a digital device because all our answers can be found on google and we no longer have to think for ourselves. I found he supported this argument and made a really good case for it. At first I wasn’t so sure but by the end he had me seeing his side. I guess this one might come down to how the teacher approaches the lesson and challenges the students to express themselves without just letting the computer do the work. Again, maybe that is where a good teacher really shines!

At the end of the debate I found myself leaning one way more than the other. I still think there are a lot strong arguments made on each side of the fence. I guess it might come down to using technology in moderation and making sure you are using it in an effect way. As a teacher, I know I have a lot to learn about how I can better incorporate technology in my own classroom to enhance student learning.

A Day in the Life…

I have always thought of myself as someone that did not struggle with technology. After taking a year off during my maternity leave I came back to school and could not believe how much had changed. All of a sudden google docs, google classroom and new websites and programs were common language at our staff meetings. I felt lost. I felt like I had been gone for years! It was a huge learning curve for me this past year and now those are the main tools I use for my teaching. I still feel I have so much to learn and so many more resources I could be using. I am excited to continue adding more tools to my tool belt!

As a student support teacher, using google docs and google classroom has allowed me to keep in touch with my students and the teachers I work with. Another tool we use regularly is zoom or google duo with zoom being the more popular choice. Unfortunately, working in a community school using technology has proven to be a big challenge. Only a handful of students have internet access or access to a computer. A lot of the students that do have access to computers are not the ones we need to connect with the most. Our highest needs kids seem to be the ones that are toughest to reach. The connection we spent building with these students all year has ended in the toughest way. When talking to friends at other schools within our city I can see how obvious our digital divide is. Our low income families, our EAL families and even some of the other families rely on other places to use the internet. However, due to Covid, they do not have that opportunity. This seems to be the biggest hurdle in our current situation. We have families that want to take part in online learning and we have provided them with computers to do so but we cannot provide families with internet when they do not have any at home.

As amazing as being able to see one another and having the opportunity to chat is, the connection is just not the same. I have had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Jody Carrington live a couple of times and our staff is just diving into her online course. In her book, Kids These Days, she talks a lot about connection and how important it is. If you haven’t heard about her, she is worth checking out!

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I think technology is so helpful and it has furthered our learning immensely but there are some things technology cannot replace. I so miss being in the school and seeing those kids faces everyday! Even on the most challenging days!!