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.

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!

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!!