Summary of Learning

Last blog post of EC&I830

I learned A LOT this semester. Our group worked throughout the semester to note key learnings. When we met to actually put together the final product we had much more than we needed. We needed to pick the most important aspects and try to showcase them in the best way possible. For our debate, we used iMovie and wanted to try to something different for our summary of learning. We chose Adobe spark. We had some challenges with recording and saving but little problems are to be expected with technology. I am very proud of our final product as I think it does a good job of showcasing the most important concepts of the semester.

Please check out our Summary of Learning! 

The main thing I took away from the course is that we as teachers need to prepare our students for their future by helping them build a positive digital identity and become smart digital citizens.

Have a great summer Alec & fellow EC&I830 colleagues!

Education for All: ‘Tech’quity in the 21st Century

I can’t believe I am writing my last blog post for The Great EdTech Debate in EC&I 830! Where did the time go?!

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This week, we focused on the topic, technology is a force for equity in society. Personally, I find any topic that examines equity to be particularly tricky. Perspective really is everything. For example, if you take a glass half empty approach, you could argue that attempts to bring technology/access to underprivileged communities (i.e. One Laptop Per Child) is simply a “white saviour” approach that is forcing western ideologies onto these societies. If you’re more of a glass half full kind of person, you might believe that bringing tech to these communities is actually helping them and allowing for more people to be connected worldwide. Of course, there are also technological inequities right here in our own communities when we consider things like technology allocations in schools, access to tech at home, and access to the internet. So how do we navigate this extremely challenging (but important) conversation?

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One thing I noticed during our debate was that both teams were ultimately advocating on behalf of marginalized groups, just from different perspectives. It truly does depend what lens you look through.

Rakan and Amy raised some important points that are worth discussing when we consider the ways in which technology might perpetuate issues such as racism, sexism, harassment, colonialism, and economic divide. However, I personally believe that technology is not to blame. Acts of discrimination, harassment, and colonialism have been around long before technology, and so I believe that we must use technology to overcome some of these issues that continue to impact society in negative ways rather than blame technology and focus solely on the ways in which it may divide us. Recent online movements such as #NeverAgain and #MeToo have sparked waves of social activism and demonstrate the positive power of technology when it comes to combating societal inequities and injustices of our time.

On the other hand, the agree team, Jen, Dawn, and Sapna made many strong arguments for why and how technology is in fact a force for equity in society. From their perspective, technology removes barriers for people, shifting the outlook from one of “digital divide” to one of “digital inclusion” (which I love)! Part of bridging this divide is the fact that education has become more affordable and accessible to people worldwide, and as an educator, I can’t help but see this as being the sole most important factor when considering ways in which technology increases equity in today’s world.

In her 2012 Ted Talk, Daphne Koller discusses the ways in which online education has opened so many doors for people who would not have had access to the same learning opportunities otherwise. She quotes Thomas Friedman when she says that “big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary”. I really love this quote and I think it speaks to the equity that technology can bring to learning in the 21st century. After recognizing what is “desperately necessary” (accessible, affordable education for all), Koller and a colleague created Coursera, a free online education site that consists of 43 courses from some of the best instructors and universities and is accessible for everyone around the world. What I found to be particularly amazing about this site is that these free, online courses have actually helped students get accepted into post-secondary institutions and land better job opportunities because it has given them the skills they need to be successful, sought after applicants.

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Personally, I fell on the agree side of this discussion, and I continually kept going back to my role as an educator when considering accessibility and affordability of technology. Although some may argue that technology has created a digital divide due to the high costs associated with buying the latest laptop or smartphone, the agree team proved that this is not actually the case. They noted that over half of those who earn $15,000 a year or less (ages 18-24) still own a smartphone. This means that wage or socio-economic status is not necessarily preventing people from accessing and/or being able to afford technology. It seems as though technology has become a priority for most people. And although many may still not have access to wifi at home, there are more and more free wifi zones popping up around many different cities (thanks, Sasktel!), along with free access to wifi at most public schools and libraries. Jodie made a great point in her recent blog when she compared the cost of a Google Chromebook to the cost of two textbooks and showed how they were roughly the same price. This just goes to show that having access to technology doesn’t necessarily mean having to spend thousands on the latest, greatest device. If school divisions take note of this, and allocate technology according to the socio-economic needs of their schools and communities, then I think we are well on our way to becoming more ‘tech’quitable institutions.

As a Learning Resource Teacher, I have seen firsthand the many ways in which assistive technology has made it possible for students with disabilities to read, write and communicate. Tools like Kurzweil or Google Read and Write allow students with learning disabilities in reading and writing to be able to access grade level text (audio) and communicate their ideas using tools like voice-to-text and word prediction. Communication devices such as the Dynavox allow students to use visual or audio prompts to help them understand or produce language. Additionally, technology allows for personalized learning which is so important given the diversity of our classrooms and the varying abilities and learning styles of our students.

As quoted in the agree team’s opening statement, “technology does not discriminate – it works the same for each and every one of us”. I would agree with this statement, however, as we have discussed through our weekly debates, technology is simply a tool, and it’s power is in how it’s used. Therefore, just having access to technology isn’t going to change the world – education and purposeful use are key. But I believe that in today’s day and age, technology and education go hand in hand, and with increased affordability and accessibility of education online, the opportunities for people worldwide will only continue to grow. This makes me really excited and hopeful for the future of global generations to come! #teamtechquity

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My EC&I Summary Of Learning

The past six weeks have been quite the journey!  I have learned so much from Alec and have enjoyed discussing and analyzing a variety of interesting topics throughout this course!

Below you will find my Summary of Learning.  This in itself was quite the learning process. I went through plans A, B, and C and this project was the perfect reminder that technology is amazing when you know how to use it properly! Google was definitely an ally of mine! 


​Thanks Alec for a wonderful class!  I look forward to using the tools and knowledge that I have gained from this course!

Summary of Learning Project

As  this class comes to an end, I have to say that I really, really enjoyed it.  It was so informative, casual, easy to use and I didn’t have PARK at the Uof R!!!!!  lol

I give a high five to each and every one of my fellow students for all the participation and words of wisdom.  I am not a verbal learner, I like to stay in the background.  I did participate in the Chat box and that was super awesome too.

Throughout this class I have seen us ‘argue’ back and forth as to whether technology has a place in our schools and whether it is destroying our youth.  Each time I went into my blog and began writing – I noticed that I had a re occurring theme – that technology is NOT going away.  It is here to stay so we must embrace it and help our youth of today start off on the right path of the digital world.  We can teach them the safety of being online, the protocol for being online, and how to create a positive digital footprint right from the beginning.  As with anything new, there will be challenges, but the long range payoff will be worth it.  We want to prepare our students for the future – technology is the future.

 

Thank you Alec and all of you in EC&I 830!

Summary of Learning

PHEW, I made it!  I am going to begin by expressing how much I enjoyed taking this class!  I have been working with technology in the classroom for several years now and every year I learn more.  Technology is always improving and changing the way we do things, the way we teach, and the way we learn.  Every year my students are experiencing new things and I am pushing myself to keep up with them!  These experiences mean that I need to ensure I am staying informed and up to date with the possible risks technology can pose to my students. Teaching and modeling digital citizenship is increasingly important.  I cannot simply complete a series and lessons and then drop it.  I must reinforce the skills and concepts continually throughout the course of the school year.  Students learn through practice.  The need to be reminded and they need to see their teacher also modeling those same skills.

The growth I continue to see with my students as they experience the digital world has been remarkable.  In this class I have heard several people comment about how we need to find a balance with technology.  I completely agree.  Digital integration is not about going paperless.  It is about reinforcing a solid pedagogy that is supported through the use of technology.  If a teacher does not know why she is using technology, then there is a BIG problem.

Thank you to everyone for continuing to add to my learning journey.  Though I have been working with technology in the classroom extensively, it has only been for two years!  I still have a lot to learn and I cannot wait to see what is in store.

Technology is a Force of Equity in Society

Boy, technology has come a long way.  I still remember being in grade 5 and my teacher telling me about a new opportunity where we are going to send messages to students in another country over the computer.  I could not believe it!  How would we be able to do that?  Basically we were emailing them and sharing information on a project we were doing in collaboration with five or six other classes throughout North America!  This was a big deal because it showed me that computers were for so much more than just practicing typing and playing games; we could connect to the world.

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Technology has made the world so much more accessible.  As a teacher, I can connect with specialists from around the world.  My classroom is currently connected to another classroom in Saudi Arabia and Chicago.  We are sharing our classroom experiences and learning about what it is like in those other classrooms!  It is great to see my students interact and learn about other places first hand.  We can also connect with specialists and live chat with them to learn more about any given topic we are learning about.  Technology has afforded us that privilege.

Technology has also brought education to more people.  Education is now way more accessible.  Our group this week talked about Open Education Resources, which offers university level courses free of charge taught by professors at universities around the world.  This is a great way for people who are interested in learning, but lack the finances, or availability to attend classes, to still get the education they seek.  In addition, we cannot forget about the emergence of webinars, distance learning (correspondence), online courses, or video conferences.  These are all due to the emergence of technology and they have allowed people, regardless of their location, to access courses, seminars, and even institutes, all from the comfort of their homes!

Technology has also narrowed the divide in abilities between those who “can” complete a task, and those who “cannot” complete a task.  As I previously mentioned, I am blessed to teach in a 1:1 technology classroom.  I have witnessed students who were several grade levels below average in reading and writing, be able to participate with our class and produce work that is at, or even above, grade level.  These technological advances have given these students the boost they needed to continue to persevere and push forward.  Students are also given far more opportunities and options to showcase their learning when technology is integrated into the classroom setting.  Student creativity soars and they definitely rise to the occasion!

Our debate saw a lot of comments come forward.  One that stuck out to me was the comment surrounding those who cannot afford the technology and how they are left behind or at a disadvantage.  Raj Dhingra discusses how technology can change education in this TEDx talk. He discusses how the argument surrounding cost and affordability is null.  One just has to be creative.

I have to admit, this video got me interested in some of the low cost options and made me wonder why more school divisions are not accessing this technology.  Perhaps we are all so attracted to the “shiny penny” that we forget the reason behind needing the specific devices we have access to.  Do we necessarily need all the features available, or are we attracted to the brand?  I am the first to admit that Apple products are great, but are their price tags really worth it?  If our goal is to provide technology to students so they can access and receive the benefits outlined above, then why are we breaking the bank doing so?

Education technology is huge!  People in the tech industry are constantly looking at how to get into that market and sell their big idea.  However there are plenty of great services available online that do not require a large credit-card limit to access.  SeeSaw is an example of a technology that showcases students and their capabilities.  It also features tools that allow students who “cannot” to still participate with their classmates.  All of these features are FREE!  There is no hidden cost or terms to work around.  I have used and accessed several other sites with the same feature!  If, as an educator, you are willing to search and be a little creative, then technology and integration does not have to necessarily be so far out of reach.

I am going to share with the video my amazing team and I put together outlining these points and more!

To close, I would like to mention how a lot of blame is put onto TECHNOLOGY.  We like to use it as a scapegoat to justify why society is the way that it is.  We use it to explain why bullying is getting worse.  We use it to explain why we see so much racism in the world.  We use it to explain why we have this whole “digital divide”.  What some of us need to do is slow down and remember that we had all of these issues before technology.  Yes, the prevalence and use of technology continues to push some of these issues to the forefront, but it is not the reason for those issues.  I guess we need to accept that technology is here and we need to take it (the good and the bad) and ensure each and every one of us is using it for its’ intended purpose and not abusing this remarkable tool!

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It’s Been Fun, ECI830!

overwhelmedI started this journey a little nervous about learning all the new technology such as WordPress, Twitter, and attending ‘virtual’ online classes.  In general, I felt comfortable with technology, but requiring to use a brand new program put a little extra pressure on.  As the weeks went by though, I began to feel more and more comfortable and really started enjoying listening to the debates and learning so much about technology and applications to education!  I loved being able to learn from the comfort of my own home!  I learned a lot of useful tools that will enable me to make connections or keep up to date with technology happenings, such as with Twitter.  After learning WordPress for this class, I even applied my knowledge to create a professional portfolio for my work at Saskpolytech.

The first class debate was titled, “Technology Enhances Learning”. I think that technology has the extreme potential to be used as a tool in education and only to the extent that the user can apply it.  I think as educators, we have the responsibility to stay up to date on all the latest technologies that could be beneficial for our students.

The second debate discussed how, “Schools Should not Focus on Teaching Things that can be Googled”. It was a very interesting debate but came down to teaching students how to use technology as a tool.  We need to teach students research skills using google constructively and how to weed through false and useless information.

In the third debate, students presented the topic, “Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids”.  This debate felt more personal to me as even though I do not teach children, I have a son in grade eight.  I am constantly wishing for better communication with the school, but at the same time I worry about what information exists in cyberspace about my children.  I remember a few years back when as parents taking pics of our children, we were told to shut off our location on our phones.  I think that this debate links back to the idea of technology as a tool.  If we know how to properly use it, with adequate privacy settings, there shouldn’t be any information breaches.  I think that communication is key to a healthy relationship between families and the schools so the answer may be the creation of a secure program used for this purpose.

I and my partners, Melinda and Allysa, debated for the agree side of the debate, “Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?”  I think we made some strong points as did the disagree side.  As educators, we need to ensure children are instructed in proper social media etiquette, to supplement what parents are telling them.  The risk to a child’s digital footprint is so high if social media is used in the wrong way, so proper education will have lifelong benefits.

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In the fifth and final debate, “Technology is a Force for Equity in Society”, it was argued that technology helps to enhance education for students in many ways.  The idea of technology as a tool was revisited and was the argument that when technology negatively impacts society, it is because the program developer has pre-existing biases, not due to the technology itself.

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Over all I learned a ton in this course!  I really enjoyed the debates and will definitely use the knowledge I have gained in my role as an educator, as well as increase my self-awareness of my own digital identity!  Please feel free to check out my final learning summary developed in partnership with Melinda and Allysa by clicking on the big blue button!

 

 

Summary of Learning

How on earth is this semester already over?!

I am so thankful for all the learning jammed into these 8 weeks, it has been both fun, and extremely engaging in the debate format!

For my summary of learning, I tried to focus more on some goals that I want to mindfully take into my teaching next year, as I feel that is the true testament of learning – when our practice grows and transforms. I apologize for it being a bit long!

Enjoy!

Summary of Learning

 

 

Equity for Inclusion

It is so hard to believe that I am writing about our 5th and final debate! This last debate topic focused on the question of whether technology is a force for equity in society.

Team agree made up of Jen, Dawn, and Sapna started off with a strong opening statement. They argued points about the barriers technology breaks down, the connection it helps create, and also brought up a great point of viewing the the term digital divide as digital inclusion.

Team disagree made up of Amy S. and Rakan, also had an informative opening statement, which brought up things I had never even considered or knew about. The stats regarding racism and sexism online were alarming, as well as the facial recognition and AI biases and issues that exist towards marginalized groups.

I stayed solid in my opinion before, during, and after the debate that I agree that technology is a force for equity in society. One of the major points that came up a lot in our group discussion was the number of technology resources and access various schools have. In many schools/divisions, this is not nearly enough, and sometimes schools are even capped on how much technology they can have regardless of the socio-economic status of their community in an attempt to even things out. As I was thinking about this, the quote/idea “what’s fair isn’t always equal” came to my mind. We need to do a better job in providing technology access and resources to those in the most need.

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I don’t really think it’s about having the best or latest chromebook, computer or iPad, but more so the access to information, skills to be good digital citizens and media literate individuals, and of course connection to the greater world around them that technology can cultivate. Schools need to make sure that they can provide enough technology, including wifi access and bandwidth, that students AND teachers, have an opportunity to practice digital citizenship into their classrooms, and begin learning skills they will use at home or work one day. Again, I don’t feel this needs to be 1:1 devices, and teachers once again play a huge role in knowing what and how much their students, families, and community have in terms of technology resources and access.

I also feel that mobile smart phones are going to be the reality for many students and families for how they are accessing information for and from schools. Some of the argument of the disagree group centered around cost, and the fact that lower income students, families, and schools struggle to receive all the technology benefits, as they simply do not have the resources, but I think mobile phones are a way to gain more access. The agree group shared stats from this TechCrunch report, which highlights these number of smartphone owners with an average income of $15,000 or less.

-Aged 18-24 = 56%

-Aged 25-34 = 43%

-Aged 35-44 = 31%

Although there are no stats for high school students, I would guesstimate in my school about 80% of students in my classes have a smartphone. Many of them are just a device, and do not have a data plan, but they are able to access the internet with wifi.

This article does a great job of addressing many issues created by the digital divide, and provides some suggestions to help teachers navigate equity in this area. Doing your research, and knowing what access your students and families have is vital, planning thoughtful lessons that use technology (based on what you already found out), putting extra efforts into teaching digital literacy, providing extra opportunities to access, and as we always do, advocating for more resources in our buildings.

If we take every opportunity we have to provide our students exposure and interactions with whatever technology resources we have, and bring the focus back to digital citizenship and media literacy, I believe we will foster both equity and inclusion for our students.

Summary of Learning

Over the course of the Spring semester, I have developed a new perspective and frame of mind when discussing and thinking about technology in society today. I have been exposed to a variety of topics and issues surrounding technology that have opened up new forums of conversation for me. I look forward to taking what I have learned and applying it to my daily life in my classroom and outside of my classroom.

Thanks to my prof Alec Couros for a great semester and to all of my classmates! Check out my summary of learning below. Special shout out to husband for being a movie star and to my beautiful high school students who volunteered their time to answer a few questions for me (yes, consent forms are signed) 🙂