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Smartphone Street

16 Oct

This week, we are asked to reflect upon a quote from Postman: “…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.”

When I first started thinking about this prompt, and reflecting on Joe, Kyla, Michael and Sam‘s presentation on AV technology, my mind instantly went to engagement, which is a hot topic in education right now. Like Adam and Scott mentioned in their blog posts this week, I also thought about the “utopia” that Sesame Street portrays of what learning is about. On Sesame Street everyone loves learning, loves each other, and are ultimately engaged and connecting to learning in the beautiful world around them. It’s fun!

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There have been many educational TV shows that I remember watching over the years – sometimes in school, sometimes at home. Bill Nye the Science guy, Popular Mechanics for Kids, and Degrassi (the original of course!) were some of my favorite TV shows, that I definitely can say I learned a lot from. I still to this day incorporate Degrassi episodes into my Health & Wellness classes as they cover real life, teenage health issues in a captivating and honest way. Many of these shows – and other educational TV, do show school and learning as a positive thing, and “gives teachers the chance to stimulate each child’s learning process with a combination of pictures, sounds and attention grabbing media”, as described in our reading this week on the importance of AV technology.

But as I started to dive further into our prompt and think about “the grander implications of the current array of AV technologies, such as apps and interactive educational shows, when we think about the format of schooling? How do personalized devices and tools like YouTube (Khan Academy, Crash Course, etc) change the way we might think about school,” I realized that this is so much bigger than technology increasing engagement in our classrooms. Technology is actually changing what our classrooms are – and will be.

Is physically going to school going to remain important? Obviously my answer is yes it should, but to others this may be no longer be if they can get everything they need online, through smartphones, educational TV, etc. Apps like Google Classroom have made it easier for students to catch up when they miss school – but on the flipside, have also made it easier to miss. Opportunities for remote learning are definite pros of AV technology, and I can speak from experience how powerful my classes with Alec have been in which Zoom has been the technology that has brought us all together to learn, and contribute simultaneously from different places. But is the ability to learn remotely a pro for elementary and high school aged learners? Are more distance education programs going to pop up and begin to change the traditional way of school? And how about for students who struggle with transiency, social skills, or perhaps mental health or addiction issues – could these distance education programs supported through AV technology  help them further their education in a way traditional school currently may not be?

I’m not sure what exactly what the answers to these questions are, or what these implications mean. As I think about a push for BYOD – are we actually pushing for smartphones/the internet/apps to be our teachers? If my student is struggling to understand math the way I explain it, and I suggest they go on Khan Academy and they understand it better… how does that change the role of school in that student or family’s minds? How does that change the relationship between the student and teacher? Are teachers actually still needed face to face? Or at all?

I’ve shared this TED talk before in this past blog post, and I cannot stop watching it, or getting behind the ideas Rita Pierson presents. Relationships matter.

 

I truly feel that the relationships we build with students have far more impact on their learning than any engaging technology can have. We need to continue to build relationships with our students and technology – by purposeful, authentic, and genuine use that enhances the learning experience. Apps like SeeSaw, do a great job of building relationships and connections between home and school in an engaging way. In this ever-changing technological world, we need to strive to build these relationships as well as meaningfully teach students about what it means to be a good digital citizen. If you’ve ever read anything of mine, I know I sound like a broken record, but digital citizenship should be at the forefront of our smartphone using (and sometimes abusing) students.

I really like what Jana said in her post this week:

“In this digital age, changing the way we think about school means shifting our view of teaching and learning from something that takes place within four walls to something that extends beyond them.”

The technology at our students fingertips is powerful – we need to teach students to harness that power for good. The relationships that we create with students are even more powerful – it is these relationships that build the foundations for students to take a step beyond the four walls schooling traditionally presents.

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Logo Love

11 Oct

One of my favorite things about EC&I 833 so far has been all the blasts from the pasts we have experienced. Number Munchers, Oregon Trail, and almost anything you can imagine from my childhood that I am now able to explore on Classic Reload has been such an enjoyable experience to me. Although enjoyable…it has also been distracting! But the distraction, and the distraction specifically that Logo provided me this past week was actually much needed for my busy brain.

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Aside from my Computer Science 100 course in my first year of University, I have next to no experience with any type of coding. In fact when I actually hear someone talk about coding, I automatically get this feeling of it being “too techy” for me. But after working through a few quick exercises during class, I was thinking to myself that this was actually kind of fun. And… I was actually pretty good at it.

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I was happy when this was one of our blog prompts, as I found myself wanting to further play around with logo as I liked not only the challenge it provided me, but also the logical reasoning, patterns, and obvious connections to math I could see at work. Although I did not get through the entire exercise book, with time I feel confident I could. This is something that could definitely be beneficial to students (and me) regardless of whether or not they were actually specifically interested in coding.

As I began to read about Papert’s theory of constructionism, I could see how learning with Logo supports this learning theory (which I had never heard of!) As a math teacher, I see value in problem-based learning, and seek to create these authentic experiential learning experiences for my students. It can be hard though with the pressure of content to cover in a short amount of time as well as rising and varying needs within the classroom today. Often students need much more guidance than the student-centered approach of constructionism.

“Teaching ‘at’ students is replaced by assisting them to understand—and help one another to understand—problems in a hands-on way. The teacher’s role is not to be a lecturer but a facilitator who coaches students to attaining their own goals.” (Wikipedia)

The question that I am sure many math teachers can attest to hearing is “when will I ever use _______ in the real world?” I have always dreaded this question, as it is not always a clear answer, and a lot of the time, students will not ever actually apply the quadratic formula to anything in their life outside of math class. As a sports person, and also Phys. Ed teacher, I always try to explain it this way to students.

I always ask, how do I get bigger biceps? Or how do I get better at my basketball shot? Usually students answer I should workout, do some bicep curls, pushups, go to the gym to work on my shot at lunch, etc. Then I talk about how long or how often I would do that. I most likely they wouldn’t walk around doing bicep curls of various objects in my “real life.” I do these specific exercise movements because I am working on making that muscle bigger. In the same way I wouldn’t use the quadratic formula at home, I use it in math class  because it is growing my logical thinking, reasoning, pattern skills, etc – and essentially “growing my brain”.

By using a program like Logo in a math class to build mathematical skills in students is without a doubt beneficial. I can even see this being done as a 10 minutes a day type program for students to start of finish class off, or even as a “brain break” (Although it works their brain pretty hard without them knowing!) I found this beneficial for my own problem solving, reasoning and logical thinking skills as I often don’t challenge my brain in this same mathematical way anymore.

I think helping our students understand how problem solving and taking on challenges – both with and without technology – can benefit their learning is a hard task – but important. Letting go of the reins in our classroom and taking on a constructionist approach can be powerful for both students and teachers. I recently did an Escape Room activity in my math class in which I gave almost zero instructions. At first my students were asking me lots of questions, and “how should they write this down, etc” but within minutes they were figuring out how to solve the problem – not just how to answer the question how the teacher wanted. Fostering this type of authentic engagement of students in their own learning is critical – in school and real life!

Meaningful Connectivism

2 Oct

Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, social learning, connectivism…I am not going to lie, I signed out of the zoom room after last Tuesday’s EC&I 833 class feeling overwhelmed. Although these learning theories underpin my teaching philosophy and classroom practices, until I am challenged by these pedagogical conversations, they are not necessarily at the forefront of my every day life. This is one of the main reasons I enjoy being a graduate student though, and it is these conversations that have caused me to become more aware, shift, and often change my beliefs that have thus far shaped, and continue to shape, my teaching journey.

I found this comparison of learning theories chart, as I was trying to make sense of exactly what goes on in my classroom each day, and how I lead the learners in front of me.

Comparison of Learning Theories Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

I definitely see myself in these three approaches, but like Channing described, I consider myself “fluid” (or more so I aim to be fluid), in adapting to the needs of the learners in front of me. When I teach Phys.Ed 9, for example, I start off with a very behaviorist approach as I introduce students who are new to our building to the routines necessary for both safety and organization in a space that can be chaotic, but a lot of fun.

I could also relate to Kyle’s post, as he spoke about teaching the way he was taught, and also his specific practices related to Math courses. Students have come to think of this way of doing math – very based in behaviorism and cognitivism – as how one learns numbers. Notes, examples, practice questions, assignment/test. Done, concept mastered… right?

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I have found that when I try and push students toward a more constructivist approach where they are defining real world math problems themselves, or really anything in which they become the guides of their own learning in math, they struggle. As a teacher, it is also difficult to see them struggle, so I have a hard time not jumping in and giving them the answers or guiding them. The way we have always done math – or done school in general, defaults to behavorism, congnitivism, and we strive for constructivism. As I am going to grow and learn myself, I think connectivism is an approach to learning that will be emerging at the forefront of our era.

In this class (and all my EC&I courses with Alec), there is a connectivist approach to learning, as the knowledge I am gaining is spread out through a network of resources including my Twitter, my classmates, their blogs, Alec, and essentially the entire wealth of information I have access to online. What I read, who I connect with, and how I “construct and traverse” that network according to one map of learning theories, essentially determines and drives my learning. I have found this way of learning to be completely different from anything I did in my high school, undergraduate, and other graduate course, and also my favorite way to learn. I am a relationships person through and through, and I find so much value in connecting with others. Having the opportunity to connect with others on Twitter especially, has given me a whole new lease on learning, and has made me more self-motivated than I am in courses with a different approach.

“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).” – Karen Stephenson

I wonder how we can set up our classrooms, and schools in general, to take a more connectivist approach, when we still focus so much on grades for post-secondary (although many students aren’t going…), route memorization (which has it’s place – times tables people!), other cognitive tasks, and the fear of letting go of control of what our students are out there discovering on their own. I think we need to make digital citizenship a priority in our schools, in order to set up our students to make meaningful connections with the online (and offline) world around them, and thus become life long learners of the vast information and knowledge at their fingertips.

Putting the “Educational” in Technology

25 Sep

Welcome readers!

I cannot believe it is not only my last EC&I class with the amazing Dr. Alec Couros, but also my final semester of my graduate program! As excited as I am to be done this journey, I know there is still so much learning ahead alongside a great group of EC&I 833 classmates and I am even more excited for that!

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For our first blog post, we were asked to reflect on and explore how our own understanding of educational technology has been shaped, and ultimately come up with a personal contemporary definition of educational technology.

My first step in writing this post started with reading some of my classmates blogs. I loved reading Scott’s trip down memory lane: Number Munchers, Lemonade Stand & All the Right Type – these were signifigant games in my childhood! (Not gunna lie… I have used Lemonade Stand in my classroom too…classic Business Ed. teacher!) I, like Channing, can also relate that my views, knowledge, and comfort regarding technology have changed significantly since starting my Master’s program, and more so directly related to the two classes I have taken already with Alec. Check out some of my past work here and here.

My previous experience and work regarding digital citizenship, and a push to focus on digital wellness, has really been a large contributor to forming my opinions regarding educational technology, especially the need to make digital citizenship education a priority in schools. I would definitely define myself as a “pro-tech” teacher, and I often speak out against banning cellphones in schools.

This week’s readings, especially “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change” by Neil Postman, really intrigued me. I often have this super duper positive view of technology, smart phones, and social media, and I feel that I may overlook the negatives because of this. Postman talks a lot about both the pros and cons of technology, and how we are constantly in this back and forth of technology both taking and giving.

“This is a dangerous imbalance, since the greater the wonders of a technology, the greater will be its negative consequences.” (Postman, 1998)
I do want to continue to maintain a positive outlook and to be an advocate for educational technology to be incorporated meaningfully, and for digital citizenship education to become a priority. But in the same breath, the same way we need to teach our kids to be more critical of the news and  media they read online, I also need to take a  more critical stance.
“The consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible.” (Postman, 1998)

Postman hits the nail on the head when he describes the changes technology makes – and how significant they are–long before Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram were invented.

The way our students of today, and the way we as adults communicate is forever changed, and won’t go back. Whether we like it or not, as teachers we need to embrace, and accept that mobile phones are the way our students communicate in many forms, and do everything we can to teach about etiquette, distraction, and addiction.

 

Not only has the way our students communicate changed – but also the way they read. Online reading with hyperlinks, images, gifs, videos, hashtags, is so much different than leisure reading or what we might traditionally do in schools. Not only is the skill of reading changing, but so is how students dissect, interpret, analyze and digest this information. I can’t lie and say I don’t get distracted by the “up next” video on Youtube, or the ads for dog pajamas that I need to buy on my Facebook feed. This never ending fountain of information that is accessible to me is vastly changing the reading I do in a day.

This task of actually defining educational technology is challenging for me. It is so much more than just the physical tools we use in our classrooms like Chromebooks or SmartBoards, or online tools like Kahoot or Google Classroom. To me, when we put the word “educational” in front of technology, it becomes all about how we teach with, about, and for technology.  As teachers we have a huge responsibility and duty to work together with kids to navigate all the technology around them. This includes navigating social media, the vast amount of information they can access, and building 21st century skills.

I love how Neil Postman describes technology and our ability to use it for both good and evil.

“The best way to view technology is as a strange intruder, to remember that technology is not part of God’s plan but a product of human creativity and hubris, and that its capacity for good or evil rests entirely on human awareness of what it does for us and to us.” (Postman, 1998)
This is where it must be educational technology and not just technology – we have the power to learn it, teach it, and grow together with our students in our understanding of how it can be a catalyst for learning. I am looking forward to the class presentations to come on productivity suites, assistive technology, and assessment technology to name a few – and I can’t wait for my definition to continue to be challenged, as well as expand.