Coding/Makerspace should only be taught by techies? Agree or disagree

 I agree with the view that Coding should be taught by techies because professionals can only efficiently teach the students about the coding as they are expert in this field. It can also be said that teaching coding is not a cup of tea for a non-techie person as it does not possess any understanding about the execution, identifying and removing errors from code so that that the code can run proficiently.

image source- https://img.freepik.com/free-vector/laptop-with-program-code-isometric-icon-software-development-programming-applications-dark-neon_39422-971.jpg

Coding is a way through which we communicate with the computers so it should be taught by somebody who already knows and has contacted the computers. It is highly based on technical learning that consists of a computer language and implementing them on a compiler file to gain the desired product. It requires a correct syntax, just like English would make sense only if the grammar is correct. Coding can be done at any age, by any gender and at any level of skill. Nowadays, even middle school children have a high level of proficiency in Coding, they are highly skilled by the institutes to bring new designers to the future of the coding world. All this knowledge about the coding is possessed by techie professionals rather than non-techie persons. This very activity includes designing operating systems, laptop/phone applications, websites, games, etc. If the sequence of the syntax is not followed, it will give the designer an error and the program would not run. This is where the “techies” step in and guide the students how to avoid or eliminate an error. They act as doctors to the program that resurrect the Code by adding or subtracting some of its elements. Only they can identify the fault and work upon it because the techies themselves have been in that stage and they were directed by their teachers the same way they are directing students now. The developer may come to know the problem and rectify it but that will take a lot of time. If they choose to seek help from a co-worker or the person who has taught them, it becomes easier and efficient as it consumes less time and brings out the best results for the developer.

Experience with Assistive technology, Challenges and Limitations

Assistive technology is a kind of software program or product that is mainly used to enhance, sustain or improve the working capability of person who is suffering from disability. Irrespective of the fact that this technology provides an effective opportunity and allow people with disability to manage their day-to-day activity with ease, there are certain challenges associated with this, for instance, individuals with minimum understanding of technology face challenge to use this. I believe, the primary purpose of assistive technology is to maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence, thereby promoting their well-being.

image source- https://itchronicles.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/assistive-technology-defined.jpg

It gives exclusive experience of learning with by performing different activities. With this technology a disabled person can smoothly and efficiently perform the task that he was not able to perform perfectly due to lack of his ability. Moreover, a person who has to use this technology requires sufficient knowledge about these tools so that one can improve the working condition. As per this article, here are some challenges of using assistive technology,

Challenges-

  • Lack of training also effects on individuals with disability ability to take proper and efficient use of devices.
  •  Lack of understanding and ineffective training to use are some of the various challenges which affect the individual to take proper and efficient advantage of assistive technology.
  • Additionally, most of the people in elderly age face difficulties to use this technology correctly which creates complexities and issues in front of them. Failure to have proper understanding related to the use of assistive technology makes kids, individuals with elder age opposed to this technology and make them feel harder to take proper advantage of it.  Moreover, lack of family involvement also creates limitations, as assertive technology may need to include stuff related to electronic worksheets, wheelchairs, different software, and taking calculators. This lack of family involvement creates challenges in front of people with disability to use this technology.

Limitations-

Technology is offering feasibility which is providing many advantages and opportunities. Assistive technology is a breakthrough that is offering people with disability to perform the day- to-day activities in an appropriate manner and with ease. However, there are some limitations which is affecting their perceptions to use this technology, in this it is needed to properly educate people about the importance of this technology and provide them training to use them in an effective manner. It is rarely used by people due to lack of understanding as it requires higher level of cognitive skills for its operations. Also, this technology is not easily accessible to all.

Coding – Week 11

Prior to this week’s class I had some, but VERRRRRY minimal experience with coding.  I have never been someone who is drawn to these types of activities. I tried taking computer science in high school and struggled to grasp the concepts, but looking back now, I’m not sure I gave it an honest shot.  This is where my mind goes immediately when thinking about coding, but I feel that there is a much larger Detailed illustration silhouettes of expressive dance colorful group of people dancing. Jazz funk, hip-hop, house dance. Dancer man jumping on white background. Happy celebrationworld of coding out there and after this weeks presentation I now know that coding is much more than computer programming.  As Gilles mentions on his blog coding refers to “everything from choreographing a dance, to designing commands on paper for ozobots, apps, websites, etc.”

Over the last few years I have noticed that a lot of my Grade 7 & 8 students are very into coding, but I was not sure of the benefit that it would have to bring those types of activities into my classroom.  This attitude has made me hesitant to invest a lot of time into something that may not pan out (I need to change this attitude and take some more risks). If it was not clear already, I am not ‘techie’ or an expertDigital composite image of biracial girl enjoying virtual reality with world techies day text in this field by any means which has also led to some apprehension on my behalf.  Does coding need to be taught by a ‘techie’? I don’t think so, but I do believe that it should be taught by someone with more experience than I currently have.

Like I stated earlier, I have little to no experience with coding.  I have worked with students with various opportunities through Sask Code like the Ozobots but that is the extent of my coding repertoire – I struggled more with this than the kids.  What these opportunities told me about my students was that they are persistent, creative and stubborn problem solvers.  They worked together to help solve each other’s problems and celebrated with each other when they were successful!  This week’s presentation really made me think back to those times when I was able to get coding going in my classroom and made me realize that there is more benefit there for our students than I first thought – which is where I focused my attention… how does coding benefit students?

Businessman / BenefitI came across an article 8 Reasons Why Every Child Should Learn to Code while I was doing a little more reading around this whole coding thing, specifically what or how it can benefit my students.  This article outlines 8 main reasons why coding is an important skill for students to learn.  Below are some of the benefits that stood out to me: 

 

Coding teaches problem solving – this was one of the main things that I observed when watching students engage with the Ozobots a few years ago.  Coding helps students understand and develop anHello Im a Problem Solver Solution FInder Name Tag 3d Illustration appreciation of how things work.  It also shows students how software engineers can use math in a creative way to solve problems.  I believe that problem solving skills of our youth (especially since COVID) has become less and less.  Students struggle to solve the most basic of tasks – I have had students ask me what they should do with a Chromebook that is dead….

Challenges and Builds Resilience – coding provides students the opportunities to bounce back after they have been defeated and a way to show that failure is the best way in which we learn! 

Young woman drawing creativity in a notebookPromotes and Extends Creativity – these activities give students the confidence to try unique things and experiment with their creativity – they are able to design something that is entirely their own! Students thrive off feedback especially from creating something that they put all of their thought and creativity into – this motivates students to take risks and be creative.

Future of Computer Programming – as the technology boom continues being able to code will serve as a very useful skill to learn throughout grade school.  Those who know how to code, could be put in a better position for employment as there are more and more sectors relying on computer code. 

Coding is Fun with Math –  I am sure I am not alone when I say this, a lot of my students do not enjoy math class.  With that being said, math is not my favorite subject to teach.  Coding provides students and teachers to work on math skills in a manner that doesn’t feel like the typical math class.  Students would be organizing, analyzing data while they are using logic and calculation to create. 

Another article from the University of Texas adds a few other main benefits that students could experience through coding.  This article touches on a lot of similar points as the article above, however, they do add some other beneficial reasons for students to learn and teachers to integrate coding into their classrooms.

Improves Computational Thinking –  this is a type of thinking where problems are expressed in a way that a computer would display them.  Students who learn to think in this manner are encouraged to break down complex problems into smaller chunks and as a result expose a pattern.  

DIGITAL LITERACY concept blurred background 3d render illustrationCoding Helps Teach Digital Literacy – when we think about digital literacy, most of us think of cyberbullying, internet safety, digital footprints and online ethics and behavior.  We may not think of coding under this umbrella.  Technology surrounds us and this is something that is not going to change.  Being able to understand and engage with tech isn’t just a good skill to have, it’s a necessity for navigating an already highly digitized society.  Students need to be digitally literate.  Coding has not yet become a day to day necessity, but as our technology keeps advancing it may get to be one, requiring its own type of literacy one day.

Through focusing my post and reading on the benefits of coding, it is safe to say that this is something I now see as worth the time to understand and get confident enough to bring into my classroom.  To begin with, Sask Code seems to be a great place to start and get some helpful tips Gilles, Kirsten & Meenu  have pointed us towards.  I stopped to talk to the Sask Code booth at the teachers convention and they were displaying some very cool projects that we are planning to try and bring into our school to work with our Grade 7 & 8 students – like creating a remote controlled car using a shoe as the frame!

Cheers, 

 

Bret

Leaping Over Coding Gatekeepers and Other Hurdles

In Retrospect

In a decade, my coding identity has run the gamut from disinterested secondary English teacher to invested facilitator.

Cue flashback (because Xennials love saying “back in my day”)…

Picture it: Wilkie, SK (middle of agricultural nowhere); the year is 2012. “Coding” is about to enter my lexicon. I teach Grade 8/9 English with minimal emphasis on computer literacy. A Grade 12 “techie” teacher from another high school presents to my class about coding. It sounds interesting, but we do not have access to 1:1 computers, and (to my young, biased mind), I wonder how I could possibly apply this to ELA. What would a classroom of future farmers care about computer programming? (facepalm!)

Fast forward: The year is 2020, right before the mic is about to drop (see: Pandemic). I am one of four tech facilitators for my division, heading to The Future of Education Technology Conference in Miami, Florida. Our purpose is to source new, worthwhile technology for classrooms, with an emphasis on coding hardware and software. After follow-up training sessions with SaskCode, I am 100% invested.

My hero, Sophia Petrillo. Copyright: Golden Girls, Touchstone Pictures

Gatekeepers and Other Hurdles

To transform a coding-resistant teacher into a tech adopter, the “in-between” must contain a series of fortunate events. In my experience, the answers were repeated exposure, courage, and experience itself.  Originally, I couldn’t connect my subject area to the relevancy of coding. I wondered how coding added value to my students, classroom, and personal pedagogy. The “buy-in” hadn’t happened yet

Another full-scale deterrent was coder gatekeeping, real and imagined. With that one “gate” came a series of hurdles, acting as my personal stumbling blocks.

Bias Hurdle One: The “stereotype of the ideal coder as innately genius rather than hard-working and well-trained has remained powerful in the tech industry”(Source). Elitism within coding restricts certain groups from leaving “Plato’s Cave.”

Stumble One: I am not inherently gifted with 0’s and 1’s.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave; artwork by Jan Saenredam, 1604.

Bias Hurdle Two: Coding is reserved for analytical, linear “black and white” thinkers.

Stumble Two: I lean toward creative, constructivist learning.

 

Bias Hurdle Three: According to a 2015 study reported in the Washington Post, computer science, “more than any other field, places a premium on inborn brilliance, something considered a disproportionately male trait.”

Stumble Three: I am a cisgender female.

 

The teacher who first introduced coding in my classroom? A white, middle-aged, cisgender male with a computer science degree. He could cite all the tech-jargon and did so fearlessly. Our blank, confused stares did not deter him. He was there to show what he knew, not what we could learn.

A New Perspective: The Other Side of the Gate

For me to hurdle clumsily but courageously over gatekeepers, I had to knock down my misconceptions about “good” coders and apply some new, improved thinking:

  1.  Coding can be applied in every subject area. While not all students end up working in computer sciences, the skills required for coding, “thinking creatively, reasoning systematically, working collaboratively. . .are things that [students] can use no matter what” (MIT computer scientist Mitch Resnick). To begin using cross-curricular coding, educator Karly Moura suggests combining robots and maps (ELA and Social Studies), Scratch-based dictionary translation (EAL/ELL/ESL learners), creating a calculator (Mathematics), and/or writing adventure and historically accurate stories (ELA and Social Studies). The possibilities and potential are only as limited as your imagination.
  2. “Good” coders are made, not born. After watching my (then) 4-year-old son easily and happily code his first online game, I couldn’t dispute that some people (particularly astounding Gen. Alpha’s) are “born with it”; however, old dogs can learn new tricks. Programs like SaskCode use Arduino, Edison, and Robot Mouse to transform coding into fun learning experiences. From programming drawing robots to configuring epic Lego Battlebots, these programs allow learners to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy” (The legendary Frizz). If we want students to fearlessly buy-in, “teachers must exemplify risk-taking” (Source).
  3. Coders are creative; coding is creating. In the suggested short film, “Coding Stars,” Elena Silenok, the creator of Clothia.com, astutely notes: “It took me some time to realize that creating things with your hands, or creating code, creating programs, is just a different way to express creativity.” To believe that coding should stay in its analytical, linear lane and leave the creating for “artsy, tactile types” is to become a different sort of gate-keeper. There are no divisions or labels except the ones we create.

    SaskCode Advertisement; Twitter (before it was desecrated).

     

  4. Coding is for everyone, but especially for underrepresented groups. We cannot deny the inherent bias and blatant sexism/racism/ageism/ableism rampant in the tech industry, but as educators, we have to push through these barriers for the next generation. Out of the four facilitators sent to Miami to lead my division’s EdTech adoption, four were self-identifying females. Programs like Girls Who Code, Coding Girls, and Black Girls Code are blazing a path for coding inclusivity. Successful coding is not about the exclusive, individual process of one innate genius; rather “the magic happens when we’re all on the same page, collaborating and building something together” (Gabe Newell, Creative Valve).

Representing women who code at FETC, 2020.

Facing Other Hurdles

Accessibility issues and the digital divide are equal deterrents and detractors; however, resourceful educators can implement the concepts of coding without relying on computers. Some unplugged coding activities to get those creative, problem-solving juices flowing are: Coding role-play, sequential Origami design, treasure obstacle courses, follow the leader games, “If, This, Then…Art!” lessons, loop routines, beaded bracelets….the list goes on.

Further, as noted in Teachers’ Essential Guide to Coding in the Classroom, students must have certain basic skill competencies before dipping their toes into 0’s and 1’s:

  • Basic computer skills
  • Logic (particularly cause/effect, inferencing, sequential scaffolding)
  • Perseverance (although I would counter that coding promotes and strengthens this attribute)
  • Attention to detail

The Other Side of the Gate

To reiterate my coding journey’s main takeaways: Coding can be applied to every subject, coders are born and made, coding is a creative/ constructivist/transformational process, and – most importantly – coding is for everyone.

Implementing coding in the classroom requires the same perseverance and courage from teachers that teachers regularly require from students. Comfort zones need not apply. Bias, prejudice, and stereotypes require acknowledgement but also push-back.

Once we find ourselves on the other side of coder gatekeeping, battered but wiser from trial and error, we must not become gatekeepers ourselves. Rather, it becomes our job to swing-wide the gate to ensure coding truly is for everyone.

Point to Ponder

  • How comfortable are you with coding? If proficient, how did you become so? If hesitant, what prevents you from learning more?
  • Are there certain students you believe do not benefit from coding?
  • How do you address a student’s coding frustration if they exhibit limited perseverance?
  • Do you believe coding is promoting the next generation of office labourers or innovative creators?
  •  When playing with Hour of Code, what activity did you explore? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?

Assitive Tech – Week 10

My Experiences with Assistive Tech

When thinking about assistive technologies, my mind often goes immediately to electronic technologies that help students learn.  But, like in the early stages of this class, when we were asked to define technology which helped me change my personal definition from one that is electronic based, to one that is any piece of new technology that enables the user to complete a task easier.  This new understanding and definition of technology is crucial when it comes to understanding assistive technologies and ensuring we are thinking outside of the electronic technology box when it comes to assisting our students.   These can fall on a continuum of No Tech to High Tech as illustrated in the image to the left.  These technologies can range from pencil grips and post-it-notes to e-readers and text to speech capable electronics.  They are essentially anything that allows our students to be successful in their learning.

 

Personally, I did not require assistive technology during my schooling years, but one of my closest friends did.  When he was in grade 9 or 10 he began having a lot of issues with his vision out of the blue and there was no definitive answer or reason to why this was happening.  With that said his schooling experiences needed to be adapted.  This was an area of contention and embarrassment for him as he was now needing assistive technology to help him with his schooling. 

One thing that I can vividly recall is that he had this computer looking magnifying piece of tech that he had at his house to help with his schoolwork.  Essentially, you placed the material which needed to be read/magnified on a bottom platform and an enhanced image was displayed on the monitor.  This made it extremely difficult to complete work in an efficient and timely manner.  At the time, it was considered to be state of the art technology.

The picture to the left was the original piece of technology that he had set up in his house.  It was very big, bulky and took up a ton of desk space.  The pictures to the right are the same machine, but have received some upgrades over the years! This machine can be purchased through the CNIB for roughly $3500,which I am confident not all families would be able to afford!

I also recall him have to use a magnifying glass during classes to be able to read the information that was required of us to engage with which thinking back was a wild occurrence and can’t imagine recommending that tool to a current student in today’s age of technology.

Professionally, I have had students who I thought could use assistive technology in some manner, but have very rarely been successful in gaining access to it for them.  The main piece of technology that I see in my classrooms when students need assistance is their own personal Chromebook, to specifically use Google Read and Write.  This is an outstanding program, but a lot of the time requires constant adult intervention to use with students.  This does help the students but it is not the be all and end all for their needs. 

I have also experienced that many of these students who I have tried to get the technology do not fit the criteria that is set out by the division.  Another aspect that is extremely frustrating is the hoops that are needed to jump through to get these students the equipment they require.  I often hear the mantra “What’s best for students” thrown around the education world but all too often this is just lip service as very rarely do our students get what is best for their learning… a very frustrating and defeating mindset to have.

Challenges and Limitations

When thinking about the challenges and limitations to assistive technology and being able to get students the support they need, three areas come to my mind: cost & accessibility, lack of PD and cultural beliefs.  

Cost & Accessibility

These supports cost money…. Some more than others and in a sector that is already hit with funding cuts or lack of funding to enhance education for all students, getting your hands on some of these technologies poses to be quite a difficult task.  I can think of many occasions where I have worked with our LRT to get a solid application in place for a student who requires or would benefit from having their own personal tech only to have very few of these applications accepted.  When these applications are rejected or not successful, I often ask why, and the common answer is there isn’t enough funds available to be able to fulfill these applications which makes it difficult to access to help the student succeed – what’s best for students, right?!?

Lack of PD

My sister is in a student support teacher role and I asked her what were some of the challenges and limitations that she sees.  She too mentioned the lack of PD for teachers and staff.  She mentioned that she has made many of these different technologies to help her students, but she does not feel comfortable enough to educate the teachers that she supports in how to properly use these tools, citing that the PD needs to come from a specific specialists such as SLP, OT, etc. to properly display how these tools best help support students and how to properly use them.

Culture

This is another challenge that I feel many teachers now face is how these types of technologies are perceived within specific cultural beliefs.  I have had many conversations over my 8 years of teaching with newcomer families surrounding learning difficulties that their child has and some possible interventions that could help, specifically assistive technologies.  A lot of times, these interventions are met with resistance as they feel that their child does not require these supports and they will be able to overcome these hurdles with extra tutoring, homework or that they will eventually grow out of it. 

There is a significant amount of available technology out there for students to use who may need that little extra support to succeed in school, but there seems to be so many roadblocks that make accessing them seem almost impossible. 

 

Cheers, 

 

Bret

Assistive Technology: More Than Meets the Eye

Going into tonight’s presentation I thought that I had a good idea what assistive technology was, but boy was I wrong! Originally my thoughts of what classified of assistive technology was very realted to my own personal experiences and what I have witnessed directly around me. Some examples of assistive technology that came to myContinue reading "Assistive Technology: More Than Meets the Eye"

Assessment Technologies’

Assessment Tools are devices in the shape of methodologies that pinpoint a student’s academic ability and expertise in a field. It helps in formulating plans for strengthening students’ academic fluency and learning experiences. They support educators and teachers in building effective teaching strategies for students. Tools for assessment are not only limited to subjects but can also be applied in contexts. It helps identify people’s learning, behavioral, and reaction tendencies. It should go without saying that assessments are essential for determining where students are on the learning curve. Assessment tools are crucial for determining the adjustments that the learning process needs. These methods must be straightforward, goal-oriented, and highly cognitive.

Awesome learning for the entire family with Kahoot!+

A game-based learning and trivia platform called Kahoot! The fact that Kahoot! can be utilized outside of the classroom and in social situations makes it popular with people of all ages and contributes to its greatness. As a result, some parents might also be familiar with Kahoot! Kahoot! is accessible from any device (through the website or the app), making learning enjoyable and accessible for all ages in all situations. By inputting the game code on their smartphone or device, students can play multiple-choice games created by teachers that are connected to the course material. Kahoot! provides a wide range of additional game types that are pertinent to the curriculum and can make learning entertaining. Many educators love Kahoot! Learning is made “fun” by the eye-catching graphics and fluid style. It’s much better than showing a PowerPoint and asking multiple-choice questions. I’ve utilized Kahoot and similar programs in the classroom since I frequently thought they are fun review resources. Since playing Kahoot will help to break up the routine of the typical school day, many children are eager to participate.

Use of Kahoot in the classroom: Teachers can use the KAHOOT platform to design quizzes and trivia that are unique to their lessons. I can choose from a range of question formats using Kahoot, including Multiple Choice Questions. Open-ended inquiries Whether-Or-Not Questions Puzzle Poll. I usually include graphics, links, and videos when I make a quiz since they help in the student’s understanding and memory of the material. When reviewing for a test or exam, I typically utilize Kahoot! The option to study information in class using games is popular with students. Because it is presented in an engaging and enjoyable way, Kahoot! helps in their retention of the information. Every game may be played more than once, so I always play it again to help students understand why their prior responses were incorrect.

Kahoot App Brings Urgency of a Quiz Show to the Classroom - The New York  Times

Advantages of using Kahoot

The advantages of Kahoot! in the classroom are numerous. Kahoot! is adaptable enough to be utilized in a variety of areas, including physical education. Because it emphasizes social learning and makes it enjoyable, Kahoot! is an excellent tool for keeping students interested. Because players don’t need to register an account and it runs on any device, it is very easy to use. Most importantly, both teachers and students can use it for free.

  • Kahoot! is the answer you’re seeking if you’re searching for a fresh approach to reinforce course material or keep your students interested. Using Kahoot! will help your students look forward to going to class and is sure to raise morale during those hard moments of the semester, such as test preparation.
  • Kahoot has an extremely high rate of student participation. Because Kahoot is visual, quick, and distinct from the typical daily tests, students enjoy playing it. Due to the high level of student involvement, teachers may more accurately assess student mastery of the information covered through quizzes and questionnaires.
  • With Kahoot, teachers may assess the entire class at once in a formative manner without putting the students under pressure.
  • Students can be kept interested and inspired to have fun with peers they would not ordinarily talk to by adding some friendly competition.
  • Kahoot’s layout enables instructors to monitor student’s progress in real-time and provide them with quick feedback.nadiahjune

Limitations

  • To take part in Kahoot, students must bring their own personal devices. As a result, it might not be appropriate for some schools with limitations or without electronic gadgets.
  • Kahoot needs an internet connection to access the app’s functionalities. Thus, many students may be denied access to Kahoot’s endearing characteristics.
  • Students can also be attracted to Kahoot’s gaming environment
  • Additionally, the use of usernames by the students in the game makes it more difficult for the teacher to monitor the growth of his students.Blind kahoot for enhancing HOTS( higher order thinking skills) and le…

In remote teaching and learning, Kahoot! is used as a formative evaluation tool to increase student engagement and motivation. Additionally, as shown by students’ positive attitudes toward Kahoot! as a platform for game-based learning, using it offers the opportunity to remediate prevalent knowledge gaps.  Kahoot use helps students perform better overall. Additionally, the usage of Kahoot! give students the chance to participate actively and collaborate in a community of practice. In order to enhance students’ academic experience in higher education, it is imperative to take use of the pedagogical opportunities offered by game-based learning platforms like Kahoot! Game-based learning systems in particular can be used to demystify abstract scientific concepts. Kahoot! is a tool that stimulates and inspires students’ learning because it can assess their understanding, recite key ideas, and assist in information retention. Additionally, it gives teachers the power to foster more in-class discussion and student participation.

A Villain’s Tale: The Monetization of Assistive Technology and Other Barriers

On a Professional Level

In my third year as I teacher, I transferred from teaching A.P. Grade 12 English to teaching SUCCESS, an elementary inclusivity program for students with special needs. One of my students had Stage 5: profound hearing loss. With no prior experience addressing this need, I asked my new administrator what accommodations and technologies were available. I will never forget the advice I received.

“When you are speaking, make sure to look directly at them and really enunciate.”

That was it. My mouth forming words slowly was the pinnacle of our so-called inclusivity program for this student. It did not sit well with me. Fortunately, in the two years I continued in that role (and in my roles since), improvements have advanced more rapidly for students needing assistive technology (AT).

Some Beneficial AT (from my teaching experience):

  • For students with ADHD and/or Autism: High-tech small, hand-held word processors (with built-in text-to-speech and speech-to-text) and mid-tech desk bikes.
  • For students with Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia: High to mid-tech computer-based learning programs, spell-checkers, and Smartpens.
  • For a student with Cerebral Palsy: High-tech eye-tracking communication device and mid-tech gait trainer.
  • For students with visual impairments: High-tech apps, text-to-speech, and video magnifiers. Low-tech large printed font, books in braille, and handheld glass magnifiers.
  • For students with hearing impairments: Augmenting devices like Personal FM Systems and Soundfield Systems. Transforming services like captioning and continued 1-1 student-teaching conferring.

Slide provided by the Department of Developmental Services

On a Personal Level

It’s been almost 5 years since my world unilaterally fell silent. I went to sleep with “perfect” hearing and woke profoundly deaf in my left ear. After weeks of medically advocating for my condition, an ENT finally told me I had sudden sensorineural hearing loss, an inner ear disability that affects roughly one to six people per 5,000 annually. From being able to hear a student’s inappropriate whisper across a rowdy room to abruptly being unable to localize questions, sudden hearing loss had an extreme impact on my teaching ability and practices.

It would take me a full year to seek AT support in the classroom. The Oticon tinnitus cancelling hearing aid (HA) I required cost over $6,000. What?! Living as a disability-free Canadian for 30+ years, the cost knocked my ableist glasses right off my face! STF benefits cover HA costs up to $1200 every 4 years; my husband’s benefits are the same. You can do the math. That leaves a personal cost of $3000 for assistive technology every 4 years. While we are fortunately able to absorb that cost, the initial bill made me pause. How did my (now former) students, the majority from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds, navigate such a financial blow? As accessibility champion, Jane Velkovski, so eloquently outlines in the Ted Salon: The Life-Changing Power of Assistive Technologies, over 1 billion people require assistive technologies but 90% do not have access to “reach their full potential.” If AT plays the hero in our global story, the villain is blatantly the inflated monetization of these technologies.   

Making peace with my new reality

Crossing the Barriers of Assistive Technology

Looking on the bright side, we all know the transformative power of assistive technology. On a personal and professional level, these advancements have improved my life and the lives of so many of my students. As Velkovski says,

“This chair is my legs; this chair is my life.”

Despite its extraordinary potential and capabilities, AT comes with a wealth of limitations and challenges.

In the research article, Childhood and Assistive Technology: Growing with Opportunity, Developing with Technology, Botelho outlines that children (in particular) face a number of barriers, but “the most important of these barriers are lack of awareness, governance, services, products, human and financial resources, and the inaccessibility of most environments.” I will now discuss a few of these barriers:

  • Lack of awareness: When my administrator advised that I slowly enunciate my words, was there truly no better tech available at the time…or was it a lack of awareness (as I concluded)? Before becoming partially deaf, I took for granted our highly sound-dependent world. People continually believe that my hearing aid, or a student’s HA, returns our hearing capabilities to 100%. Unfortunately, that is not a reality….yet. In my case, my HA allows me to localize sound (necessary in a classroom full of chatter and questions), partially cancel out irritating tinnitus, and avoid feeling like my head is split in half. At best, my left ear registers sound like a muffled radio broadcast. For someone with a cochlear implant and/or bilateral deafness, the experience is entirely different. Complete awareness of various needs is almost impossible unless experienced first-hand; however, it’s essential we continuously consider these needs for our students and society. Whenever I enter a building with stairs and no assistive tech, I am reminded that my reality is not everyone’s.

  • Governance: It seemed telling that out of our class’s plethora of experienced Saskatchewan educators, many of us (definitely me) seemed uncertain about current SK accessibility legislation. In my weekly research, I learned that on November 15, 2022 (coincidence???), The Accessible Saskatchewan Act was introduced in the Legislative Assembly. If it passes, it will help to prevent/remove accessibility barriers. Seems long overdue!
  • Human and Financial Resources: As previously noted, I am grateful for my personal and professional access to AT; however, the effort and advocacy necessary to access it are often overlooked. On a personal level, if I had not relentlessly self-advocated, I would not have received a correct diagnosis, steroid medication and aural injections, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, or a HA. Similarly, in every student accessibility case, countless specialist and IIP meetings, grant applications, research and training sessions occurred before access became a reality. What would we do without Special Support Services Teachers? For many of my (former) community school families, literacy rates remain low while financial barriers remain high. With reports of over 34 million deaf children worldwide, and Canadian hearing aid price-tags ranging from $1000 to….who knows where inflation caps…..the monetization of assistive technology hinders its life-changing capabilities.

Final Thoughts

How can we put a price on moments like the following?

And yet, our world sets that price-tag high all the time. With Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR), AT can become the hero it was intended to be: “This approach involves everyone, from parent to teacher, physical and other therapists, community health worker, organizations of persons with disabilities, and others, in awareness-raising, training, service provision, and resource allocation, to each according to their role, but always with the needs of the family and child at the center.” (Source)

As Botelho so aptly notes,

“It takes a community to include a child.”

Despite the barriers, we all must play our part in helping our students fully access their learning potential.

 

Points to Ponder

  • What other barriers have you experienced in providing/implementing assistive technology?
  • As educators in SK and elsewhere, how is AT provided and introduced in the classroom? What training is provided, if any?
  • If you have been teaching for 5+ years, have you noticed a shift in AT access?
  • In your opinion, what should an educator/administrator’s response be to students misusing AT? For example, a student continuously uses an iPad to take unsolicited pictures of classmates. Or a student uses text-to-speech to recite inappropriate words.

Quizizz – Week 9

First off, I am going to start with a disclaimer…. I am currently on Paternity Leave so I will have to wait until January 5 to be able to use this new assessment technology with my class.  

With that said, I am going to do a review of Quizziz as a possible assessment tool to incorporate when I am back in the classroom.  I choose this tool because of its similarities to Kahoot in the sense that students would be able to make the transition fairly seamlessly.  When doing research for our presentation last week, one thing that kept coming up when it came to technology integration was that teachers should try to meet the students where they are at.  They should be looking to use tools or programs that students have experience with and are familiar with how they operate.  

What is Quizziz?

Quizizz is a Learning platform that offers multiple tools to make a classroom fun, interactive and engaging.  Quizizz takes the excitement of a gameshow-style review game and puts the whole experience in the students’ hands. With a traditional Kahoot! game, everyone sees the question and possible answers on the projector and answer simultaneously. Quizizz is different because the questions and possible answers are displayed individually on student devices.  As a teacher, you can create lessons, conduct formative assessments, assign homework, and have other interactions with your students (for all grades) in a captivating way. 

Quiziz Features

  • Instructor paced Lessons/Quizzes: Teachers control the pace; the whole class goes through each question together.

  • Student paced Lessons/Quizzes: Students progress at their own pace and you see a leaderboard and live results for each question or lesson.

  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Students always see the content on their own devices, be it  PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

  • Access to millions of Quizzes: Import any public quiz as-is, edit and customize them.

  • (Quiz + Lesson) Editor: Choose from 6 different question types to add images, video, and audio to teleporting questions from other quizzes and lessons.

  • Reports: Get detailed class-level and student-level insights for every quiz. Share with parents/guardians to monitor student progress.

  • Options to Customize: Options to customize your quiz sessions to toggle the level of competition and speed.

  • Sharing & Collaboration: Share your quiz with other instructors and/or ask them to be collaborators.

Unique Features

  • Memes – you are able to embed funny pictures as  treat for your students 
  • Homework Mode – students do not have to complete the game in person.  Teachers can assign to be completed by a deadline.
  • Media Add ins – Adding audio, images and math questions.
  • Power ups – where students can have advantages throughout the assigned activity.

Alternative Modes  of Play

  • Fast and Furious – using it as a teaching tool or  formative assessment  tool to see if reteaching needs to happen for a particular lesson and complete the Quizizz after the content is re-taught.

  • Student Created Quizizz – have students submit questions to be asked in a game using Google Forms survey.  You can import the data directly from the spreadsheet and into your Quizizz accounts.

Pros & Cons

Below are some of the pros to incorporating Quizizz into your classroom:

  • Answer explainers, 
  • Audio/video responses
  • Asynchronous assignments
  • Good reports for assessment
  • Student paced 
  • Student progress board for teachers

There are also some cons to Quizizz:

  • LMS integrations limited to district plans
  •  Challenging to sift through the library to find top-quality content
  • Loss of excitement with students working at different paces
  • Question isolation for further instruction

This tool has come a long way, adding handy customization options that allow teachers to create learning experiences that exceed other quiz platforms.

Classroom Purposes

This tool can be seen as a swiss army knife or a multi-tool for teachers.  There are numerous ways in which we can utilize Quizizz and other apps just like it in our classrooms.  Teachers are able to use in ways that are not limited to assessment.  Some ways that I plan to use Quizizz for in my classroom: 

  • Formative Assessment tool – create quizzes and games to test students knowledge of taught materials.  Teachers can use reports to analyze the performance of students to plan individualized interventions or notice any areas that may need to be retaught.
  • Use poll type activities to collect student feedback and engage them in decisions surrounding everyday learning.
  • Have students create Quizzes to be shared with the whole class as a way of review or formative assessment.
  • Quizzes act as a exit tickets to check understanding 
  • As a way to introduce new topics in fun, interactive and engaging ways. 

Challenges to Technology In Classrooms

As with any technology integration into our classrooms there are going to be challenges.  The major challenge that resonates with me is the student to computer/device ratio.  Many of these games’ best use is when each student has their own device.  For that to be accomplished, not using personal student devices, there needs to be a  1:1 ratio which depending on your school and access to tech can be a daunting task to accomplish.  Personally, I am grouped with the other grade 8 teachers to share 2 carts of 20 or so computers.  To ensure that each one of my students has a device that is not their cell phone, I have to book both of these carts as I have 30 students.  This affects other teachers’ ability to use the tech a the same time. 

Another challenge that always seems to come up is the quality of the internet or having the internet not functioning properly when you need it to be.  This requires teachers to redirect on the spot and cna affect the quality of the lesson they may be getting.  Students’ technological savviness can also be a challenge when integrating technology.  Just like learning where every student learns specific ways and at different paces, they also have varying levels of technological abilities.  Even though our students can are known as ‘digital natives’ there are still some that are going to struggle using technology.  To help limit or rectify this problem, teachers need to ensure they are using trial runs with the program that they are asking their students to use.  This helps students be more comfortable and alleviate some user issues that may arise.

I personally like these types of game show apps as a formative assessment tool where I can get a significant amount of data in a relatively quick manner to help guide my teaching practices.  I find it difficult to use this as a way of summative assessment as I feel these  apps  do not lend themselves to assessing topics to a deeper understanding or application level.  Students love them so I think they do hold a value to incorporate in our classrooms, but maybe not as a summative assessment tool.

 

Cheers, 

Bret