Author Archives: Brooke

Week 1 – Learning Project

Link back to my UPDATED learning project outline: Crunch Time – Making a Decision about my Learning Project

My first face-to-face guitar lesson was on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Music in the House, Regina. It is an old house in the downtown Regina area. When you walk in, you see multiple rooms featuring an instructor and a student and your ears are met with the muted sounds of many fingers working on a variety of instruments. When I walked in the door, I looked to the left to see and hear someone learning to play the drums, a few steps further down the hallway, another student learning the guitar before reaching the room where I was to meet my instructor. There were other rooms that I didn’t make it to yet but so far it seems like a quaint little place where students of a variety of age and ability meet with their instructors to learn their instrument of choice.

Upon arrival, I hauled in my borrowed-from-a-friend guitar which my instructor quickly tuned for me while listening to my answers about what I hoped to achieve from my lessons. My instructor proceeded to describe the anatomy of the guitar and handed me a pic (and taught me how to hold it). My instructor taught me about how strings, frets and fingers are numbered and had me practice playing a variety of notes by calling out something like “third string, second fret” (which you play with your second finger). My lesson wrapped up with learning G, C, D, Em and Am chords using tablature which I am to have memorized by next lesson.

Halfway through my lesson, I expressed that I was having difficulty seeing the strings which meant that my borrowed guitar was too big. Something I didn’t think about before my lesson! This led to a quick trip to Long and McQuade, Regina to rent an appropriately sized guitar which was much better for practicing on this week.

This week I also tested out my free Yousician trial. I am still deciding whether this app is worth the investment. But so far, I am enjoying it. If you have used Yousician before, please let me know what you think! I’d appreciate some feedback before making the purchase.

I quickly personalized my learning in the following ways and got started with the lessons.

Images Source: Yousician

The app teaches you to play using Missions and Workouts. This week I worked on the Play Strings and Play Frets missions. The app listens to you play using the microphone and gives feedback via text prompts, stars and other ways which I will highlight in next week’s post.

This was part of the very first mission. But the third mission, the app had me playing multiple strings and frets.

I had to practice this one a few times in order to improve how many stars I received.

After I realized that Yousician tracks your progress, I updated my daily activity goal to 30 minutes.

Images Source: Yousician

I have been following along with Catherine, Daisy and Amanda and really like how they are setting up their learning project using iMovie and WeVideo so I thought I’d give it a try too. Check out my first iMovie video to see some of my progress throughout the week:

I really like iMovie as you will see in my iMovie review this week. Not only did I have to learn some guitar skills this week, I also needed to learn to use iMovie. However, I ran into a few difficulties which I intend to improve upon for the next project update.

  • I found royalty free music using Youtube’s Audio Library but didn’t think about how I would be unable to play the Taylor Swift music (doh!) that my instructor had me practicing in order to switch between the C chord and Am chord. Therefore, part of my video doesn’t have the audio I want. For next week, I will have to practice playing all of the chords of the song on my own in order for it to be included in the video.
  • I have to figure out a better way to show you what I am learning on Yousician for the same copyright issues as I mentioned above.
  • I am pretty slow a plucking away on the strings so I think I’d like to use the fast-forward option that Catherine and Daisy used to cruise through the boring parts or speed up some of my playing to make it sound more coherent.
  • I recorded quite a bit of footage of myself practicing this week but I think I need to have more of a plan in terms of the layout of my vlog so that I am not just recording myself at random but with intention. Purchasing an iPhone tripod with the assistance of my classmates was a game-changer.

If you have any comments about Yousician or other tools you have used to learn to play guitar, please let me know!


Create, Edit, Present – an iMovie Review

For this week’s blog post assignment, I decided to explore iMovie. I decided to try out this tool because it is one that I have always wanted to be able to navigate well and additionally, I am hoping to use this is an video editing tool to document my learning project. I started out by watching this tutorial which I found to be very helpful as I am an  iMovie beginner.

Overview: iMovie is a video-editing tool for Apple users. You can choose pictures or video clips to create your movie and add titles, music and several audio and visual effects.

“iMovie is a video editing tool developed for iOS and macOS that can create a complete storytelling movie, with credit rolls and studio logos, using photos and videos. iMovie can be used by iOS and macOS users to make videos commemorating special memories, moments and sceneries and then share them with their family and friends, or even with a client. Users can also exercise their creative side by producing Hollywood-like trailers, either from scratch or by using the themes and templates available and then customize them to make their unique video. This video editing application is easy to use, supports 4k video resolution and the finished product can be played from any apple device and projected to a screen. It can also be shared to any video sharing platform or to the social media”.


Highlighted features:

  • Voice-over abilities.
  • Picture-in-picture feature (I’m going to try this out next week)
  • Ability to fix shaky video
  • Ability to crop photos and video
  • Ability to add filters, and adjust white balance and make colour adjustments to photos and video.
  • Green-screen capabilities using 3rd party apps such as Touchcast or Chatterbox.


  • It’s free!
  • You can work on the same project from a variety of different Apple devices.
  • There are many keyboard shortcuts to use (my fave!)
  • Once you figure it out, it’s really easy to use.
  • You can import projects from other iOS apps such as iTunes, Photos, Garageband, etc.
  • It is very easy to download and share your work to social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube and Vimeo or simply email your work to whomever you wish!
  • Students can work collaboratively on projects.


  • Although it is has capabilities on all Apple devices, it can become tiring to edit on iMovie using an iPhone or tablet. A device with a larger screen is much preferred.
  • The layout of iMovie isn’t initially very user-friendly. When I hovered my mouse over the different icons, it didn’t tell me what they were. The only way I found out was by watching Youtube tutorials and by trial-and-error.
  • Younger student would have difficulty using this tool. The review of iMovie by Common Sense Media indicates it is best suited for grades 5-12.
  • Unfortunately, my school division does not have Apple products and therefore students are unable to use iMovie. Instead, students in my division use WeVideo.

Things to be aware of:

  • If you try to use copyrighted music or images from the Internet you will be unable to upload your video to any public platforms and images will show up blurry. Therefore, it is best practice to always use original content or make sure you have permission via purchasing to use copyrighted content. YouTube’s audio library is one place to acquire royalty free audio to use on iMovie.

Personal Applications: 

  • Creating and sharing memories from any event!
  • I am thinking of using iMovie to create a video of my daughter’s first year in photos/videos.
  • Can also be used in entrepreneurial ventures.

Classroom Applications:

The list of classroom applications for iMovie is endless but I will highlight a few ideas. With each idea, there are many cross-curricular opportunities as well. For example, creating a how-to video could connect projects in writing, math, science, social studies, art and so on.

  • Creating a review of any kind. In my classroom, a favourite would be creating a book review.
  • Create a book trailer
  • Many opportunities for ELA representations…add audio/visual to reciting a poem, illustrate a story, record an interview.
  • Create any kind of presentation related to any subject area…a book report, a science report.
  • Creating a how-to video
  • Create a book summary
  • Digital storytelling opportunities
  • Create a summary of learning on a unit of study
  • Visual representation of nearly any classroom project
  • Self-reflection or process or learning videos
  • This interesting article gives some classroom applications of iMovie at every level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
  • Opportunity for teachers to use in a flipped classroom scenario.
  • Opportunity for teachers to record lessons / instruction for the purpose of differentiation.

What are some ways that you have used iMovie?

Crunch Time – Making a Decision about my Learning Project

Thank you to everyone who commented on my first post about my Learning Project where I debated exploring photography or becoming a birth doula. However, even at the time of writing that first post, I was unsure about either project. Photography was something that I had done before and am always working at, and I was wanting to try something new. Becoming a birth doula is still something I am very interested in and I am taking the training at the end of November. However, because a majority of the work would take place near the end of the semester, again, I was unsure of how I would make this work for the class assignment. Many of you offered suggestions as it seemed several people were interested in following the birth doula route. None the less, I have made the decision to try something I have always wanted to learn…playing the guitar.

In order to accomplish my goals to becoming a beginning guitarist by the end of the semester, I will take the following steps.

  1. I have signed up for private lessons at Music in the House in Regina.

    Each week I will attend a 30-minute lesson with my instructor. Their website indicates that they provide “students songs in a wide range of musical style including pop, rock, country, blues,  bluegrass and folk. Students learn chords, strumming patterns, fingerpicking, improvising and basic theory to help understand how music works.”

    Each week I will practice for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.

  2. I will use some of the free videos from Marty Music’s Youtube page to supplement my learning.
  3. I have two people in mind to be guest instructors during my learning project. More to come on this!
  4. I have subscribed to the free trial of Ultimate Guitar Tabs which is an app that people can create, share and learn guitar tabs to help me explore further.
  5. I am planning to test out Yousician using the free trial. This app is fairly expensive but if it is worth the money, I would be interested in investing. If you have tried out this app before or if you have a better app that you have used, please leave me a comment below.

I plan to document my learning using iMovie. I haven’t used iMovie before so this will also be a learning piece for me. I plan to write weekly updates on my blog and include the iMovie video I have created for that week to provide audio and visual elements to my project.

Passion-Inspired Learning in the 21st Century: What Would You Do with a Student Like James?

How do you take up teaching in a world where knowledge is becoming obsolete?


This statement could possibly be argued by James Holzhauer, one of the most winningest players on NBC’s Jeopardy game show and fourth-highest-earning American game show contestant of all time who set several records this spring. I wonder what his take on this question would be when his success was based largely on his acquired factual information.

Watching Jeopardy is a thing in our house and we keep track of points based on the most correct trivia answers. But alas, we can’t all be Jeopardy superstars…

In class this week, Dr. Couros posed the question:

If you can Google it, why teach it?

NCTE definition of 21st century literacies doesn’t suggest doing away with information gathering but rather being able to manipulate information in a different ways for the purpose of the skill set they describe. This type of information is different than generations past may be used to. The NCTE definition of 21st century literacies states:

Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to:

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

In this list you see verbs such as DEVELOP, COLLABORATE, DESIGN, ANALYZE, SYNTHESIZE, CREATE, and so on which are all high level thinking skills in the frequently referenced Bloom’s Taxonomy.







Bloom’s Taxonomy is a hierarchy which means that obtaining skills in one area leads to success in the next skill set. If “knowledge is at the basis of these six cognitive processes” (the Bloom’s explanation of knowledge is explained further here), knowledge acquisition, in whatever form, is foundational. Googling something is one source of knowledge acquisition but in order to truly learn something, I reference the paradigm of constructivism:


This paradigm suggests a deeper connection with learning new information through some type of experience and reflection. I previously thought that this depth of understanding could (most successfully) come from face-to-face learning. But my thoughts have change significantly as a participant of Alec’s online courses throughout the year. The style of this online course allows for the collaboration, connection, conversations, problem solving, and exploration that I could receive in a physical classroom and additionally, I can take what I learn and apply it in a hands on manner. Cue this semester’s learning project.

I return to the question at the start of the post:

How do you take up teaching in a world where knowledge is becoming obsolete?

I really struggled with this blog topic in 2018 when I was first asked to comment my thoughts on the role of teachers in a world where knowledge is becoming increasingly obsolete. The 2018 version of this blog post can be found here. Much of what I believed then, I am still holding on to today:

  1. While knowledge is at our fingertips through multiple devices, you still need to be able to live in the real world. For example, you need to know your multiplication tables (and other basic math skills) to competently navigate the grocery. I can’t imagine having to pull out a calculator to determine which brand of apples is the best bang for my buck. Additionally, do you get to Google answers during job interviews? While interviewees are increasingly asked problem-based and creative thinking questions during interviews, it is important to have a knowledge base in your field. Finally, if you are leading a professional presentation or teaching in a classroom, is it appropriate to misspell words? Can you stop the class to look up the spelling of a word you are attempting to use? These are just three quick examples I can think of; there are many more.
  2. Future work skills are going to look much different than they do today and teaching students to “find, sort, analyze, ultimately criticize and create new information” — as Michael Wesch suggests in his video Knowledgable to Knowledge-able — is paramount.
  3. Although the power of tech is amazing, tech integration can be tricky in disadvantaged spaces. Curriculum infused with tech integration cannot occur when access to tech is the barrier and students lack of access to tech has prohibited basic tech skills. I teach primary students and I don’t even want to imagine the amount of time we have spent learning to login to the computer! Much of what we do in the primary grades is foundational for the passion-inspired learning projects, discussed in this week’s readings, that take place in subsequent years of schooling. It is critical to learn how to learn.
  4. The role of the teacher is important. Google doesn’t replace a quality teacher.

With these ideas in mind, my teaching has changed from the beginning of my career to now. My classmate Nancy discusses student disengagement in her blog post this week which is big issue in the world of teaching which calls for a rethinking of how we are currently “doing” school. Teachers are, by their job description, responsible for student learning. My classmate Curtis discusses a shift in the role of the teacher from information dissemination to what my classmate Dean calls a learning leader. Curtis argues that teachers must go through an unlearning process; a process that my classmate Daniel and myself included are beginning to venture upon. My shift in teaching has been about learner-centred approaches to curriculum, technology integration and, social and multi-disciplinary learning. A few anecdotes come to mind as I think about how to alter my teaching in the coming years:

  1. My first attempt at Genius Hour several years ago was a fail. Which is okay because I learned a lot. I didn’t scaffold well enough in teaching the skills of how to learn about something they were interested in.
  2. Coding Ozobots to move around a racetrack and follow flashlights was a really engaging activity for my students. I want to learn more about how to use robots and coding for the purpose of tech integration into primary curriculum.
  3. Getting to use and share their work on SeeSaw with their parents and classmates was also really motivating. Commenting on one another’s work with emojis is really cool! Providing constructive feedback between classmates is challenging. Here is where I see opportunities for social network learning and Brown and Adler’s ideas on social learning. Additionally, this calls for digital citizenship education of which student privacy and safety is paramount.
  4. Building a Ping Pong Ball Rollercoaster (STEM activity) was very challenging for my students who are typical “do well at school” students. My students who are “less classroom savvy” in the traditional sense, did really well. The social aspect of working as a team was challenging for all involved. Learning to work productively, and efficiently in collaborative groupings is vital in an ever-changing world and it is a skill that my students were deeply lacking. Additionally, I learned the multi-functional value of interdisciplinary projects. For further reading, my classmate Catherine discusses the value of arts integration with other disciplines.

The bolded words highlight where I’d like to go with my teaching. Many of these bolded ideas connect back to the requirements of 21st century literacies discussed at the beginning of this post. In his video Knowledge is Obsolete, Pavan Arora suggests that due to the rapidly changing nature of knowledge, teachers, like myself, question what they should be teaching. Pavan argues, “we teach creativity…how to access knowledge, how to assess knowledge, how to apply knowledge”. By engaging students within the power of networks, in which knowledge is rhizomatic, highly interconnected, we allow them to participate (sharing, connecting, collaborating) in the collective and ubiquitous accumulation of digital knowledge.

Back to James Holzhauer, Jeopardy champion-extraordinaire. My earlier argument about Holzhauer indicated that for him to be as successful as he eventually became, knowledge wasn’t obsolete. That is, his vast range of trivia knowledge allowed him to achieve the standing that he did. While I can’t say this for certain about James Holzhauer specifically, I would imagine a few things about him (and others like him) to be true. First, he is creative. A quick scroll through his Wikipedia page informs readers how he employed strategies to the game that others had not previously done and “revolutionized the game of jeopardy“. This requires not only creativity, but also critical thinking. I return to those verbs from the 21st century literacies: DEVELOP, DESIGN, ANALYZE, SYNTHESIZE, CREATE; all skills required to effectively strategize. Second, his vast range of knowledge points to cross-curricular and interdisciplinary learning required of 21st century students and professionals. Third, his love of learning (about what he’s interested in) is evident. As a teacher, fostering a love of learning is a top priority and I think it can be achieved by reimagining the role of teachers. According to this article, Holzhauer wasn’t the “school” type. He had mediocre grades and often skipped class to learn and participate in gambling (his pre-Jeopardy profession), “reasoning he could use the time more productively” by accumulating poker winnings rather than sitting in class. If teachers begin to re-imagine their roles and teaching strategies, a love of learning can be inspired. This re-imagination can start with the introduction of social network learning and passion-inspired projects (Holzhauer’s would undoubtedly have been gambling-related) into the classroom. We have all had James’ in our classrooms. What would you do with a student like James?

Major Digital Project Musings

The past few weeks I have been thinking about my major project for EC&I 831. I have decided to go with Option B: Based on the idea that individuals are now more able to learn and share online, you will choose something significant that you would like to learn, and you will share your progress openly in an online space. The ‘something’ might be an instrument, a language, a sport or almost anything that requires more than a few hours of effort. 

But the thing I am terrible at is deciding what the “something” is that I should learn about. So, I decided to use Instagram to get some help:

Here are the (unfiltered!) responses I received:

I learned something: I should have been way more specific with how I worded my initial question. I shouldn’t have said I need “something to learn about” but rather I need to “learn to do something” AND I also shouldn’t have said “it can literally be anything”. Some people took that way too literally. As you can see, the credible and feasible suggestions are limited in number.

To be fair, I did receive a couple more legitimate suggestions in my DMs.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

Option #1: I LOVE photography. I am obsessed. I have taken two photography classes so I know a bit about photography and I am really interested in post-processing programs (I use Lightroom and Photoshop). But here’s the thing. I’m not confident in photographing or post-processing. Sometimes I take cool pictures (IMO) and sometimes I can’t figure out the settings to take the picture I want.

COOL PICTURE – Horseshoe Canyon near Page, AZ

Cute dog but not a good photograph – lighting is tricky and I don’t know what to do about it.

So, I could spend my learning project working on improving my photography skills. Here are some ways I can do this:

  • In-depth review of the print material from my photography classes.I haven’t spent any time looking at this and I think it would really help. This review, coupled with the practice that would go along with it, would take a considerable number of hours.
  • Take another photography workshop like this one with Ali Lauren Photography based in Regina and Lumsden.
  • Explore the DSLR Manual Mode video tutorials (shown in above Insta DM photo) offered by a photographer friend (we used to work together during my undergrad).
  • Connect with other photographers via social media platforms such as Instagram or VSCO.
  • Explore YouTube tutorials on photography and Lightroom.

Now for something COMPLETELY different….

Option #2: Become a birth doula. I have been obsessed with all things pregnancy, birth and beyond for a number of years and getting to experience it all with the arrival of my daughter earlier this spring has further solidified my passion for this area of study. AND I have wanted to become a doula for a long time! I used to want to be an obstetrician or labour and delivery nurse!

Women’s health as it relates to pregnancy, birth and beyond is an under-researched and under-represented field (Garbes, A., 2018, Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy). You can also check out this article about how gender bias has skewed biomedical knowledge if you are interested in this topic. The reason I bring this up is because during my pregnancy, I was constantly searching for information online and most often was met with minimal, vague or ambiguous results for the questions I had. In becoming a doula and educating myself further about the topics indicated above, I can be a support person others.

Here are some ways I can do this:

  • Take a birth doula training workshop on Nov. 15-17 (18 hours) through Birth Ways International. This 18 hours does not include working through the pre-workshop material. The topics of this workshop include:

  • Read/view and review books, blogs and other media related to doulas, pregnancy, birth, postpartum.
  • Connect with other doulas and pregnancy, birth and other related professionals through social media.
  • Interview doulas in Regina or on social media to learn more about the doula role/experience.

For both options, I would create an Instagram account to document my learning in addition to blogging about my learning project.

Things to Consider:

  • Photography is the less expensive of my two options. I have all the “stuff” already wheres doula training costs $495. But…I will eventually do the doula training anyway so I’m going to spend the money at some point.
  • The majority of the doula training will take place on one weekend with learning via books and other media platforms taking place weekly in order for me to blog / post on Instagram about. Does it matter that a major part of the project will take place on one weekend? I’m not sure..

This is the extent of my thinking so far…I welcome your feedback on one or both of my options!

Describing My Relationship with Social Media in One Word

I was trying to think about one word that describes my relationship with social media. The first word that popped into my mind was tiresome as I thought about the (MANY) times I’ve gotten lost in the endless scroll that is social media. I really enjoy the screen time stats that came with an iPhone update about a year ago. This allowed me to manage my time better and also made me realize how much of my day was being dedicated to social media. The interupptions created by social media in our daily lives are significant as shown in this tweet below by Plainsview School:

The screen time issue is just one of the many negatives associated with social media. My classmate, Kyla, discusses others in her blog post this week. Further, the internet is FULL of articles that describe the negative impact of social media on society. I have had many opportunities in Alec’s classes to explore these impacts. In EC&I 830, in debate-style, two teams argued that social media was ruining childhood. If you are interested, you can find Team Agree here and Team Disagree (my team!) Team Disagree. Our main points are outlined below: Capture

However, social media isn’t really an issue of polarities. It certainly has negative impacts but is also has so many positive impacts. Unfortunately, the positives are a little trickier to find — but they are out there! The article, A Generation Zer’s Take on the Social Media Age, is one of my favourite examples of how social media is playing a positive role in society. I am also thankful for my classmates, like Dean, who are sharing their positive relationship with social media. 

So, I started out describing my relationship with social media as tiresome. But I couldn’t just stop there, with one word. My next thought was that social media has also been extremely educational for me in so many ways. In many aspects of my life, I have been able to connect with experts in the personal and professional fields of interest through various social media platforms. As a result, I can ask questions of these experts who I may not have access to in my city and receive immediate (or close to) responses.

On a personal level, I find social media to be fun, engaging and enjoyable for the most part. I love to connect with family and friends and see posts about what they are up to. My preferred social media platform is Instagram. I have connected with teachers who have inspired ideas about classroom set/up, lesson plans, classroom management, student engagement (and the list goes on…). I have connected with photographers who have inspired my creative side and when I see something interesting can ask them “hey what camera settings did you use to create this photo?” Mostly recently, in the past year and a half with the pregnancy and birth of my daughter, I have been able to connect with nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, doulas, nutritionists, occupational therapists and many other professionals in this field to learn about the experience I was having. I didn’t have to make an appointment or pay for a service, I could just watch their Instagram stories and ask questions to quickly get the answers I needed. Further, these “influencers” were providing information in a relatively under-researched area: women’s health. They had answers to questions that I couldn’t necessarily find via a Google search or a Google search may yield misinformation.

The next word that describes my relationship with social media is scary. This is where the issue of “the post-privacy era” comes in. Personally, I try to be very careful with privacy settings on all of my social media accounts, especially Instagram which is where I share personal stories, images and videos. While I want my family and friends to be able to see pictures of what we are up to, I am very conscious and what and how I post due to the possible theft of images, use of images for branding and other negative purposes. My classmate Catherine and I were chatting on Twitter about rules we following for posting online (especially now that we are both parents). If we want to teach our students and children about following appropriate rules for posting and conducting ourselves online, adults should be held to the same standard.

Professionally, I continue to be intimidated about using social media in the classroom. The do’s and don’ts for teachers are still too ambiguous (IMO) and the consequences too significant. While I see other teachers using social media in positive ways, protecting student privacy online is a big deal and still daunting enough that I have not ventured in that direction yet.

So, I couldn’t sum up my relationship with social media in one word (too tough!) but I was able to find a few. My final word to describe this relationship is balance. I was walking through Chapters the other day and saw the book 24/6 – The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week where author Tiffany Shlain discusses the benefits of turning off screens for one day each week. I chuckled at first but on second thought decided that a lot of people could probably gain some insight from reading this screen-time self-help book (put your hand up if you need a copy!) Each year my family heads out on a 9 day trip to Northern Saskatchewan where there is no cell service which means before we hop onto the float plane we toss our powered-down phones into our Rubbermaid bins (suitcases are not suitable for this trip). Once the phones are off, it is almost as if a weight is lifted off everyone’s shoulders as we get to completely disconnect from the world.

In this post I have listed some of the ways that social media has had a positive impact on my life and some ways in which social media can be a really negative force to reckon with. Additionally, I have discussed how sometimes it just feels amazing to completely remove yourself from the world of social media. Therefore, my relationship with social media isn’t one word, it’s a really complex relationship in which there are many possible outcomes (most of which/at least for now) are completely under my control.




Summary of Learning – EC&I 833

Class #8 complete!

Below you will find my Summary of Learning for this course. It was tricky to fit all of this semester’s learning into one short video.

Thank you for coming along this learning journey with me!

Redefining Assistive Tech

This week’s group presentation focused on assistive technology and prior to the presentation, I would have said that my experience with assistive tech was limited. However, the group shared a chart showing varying degrees of assistive technology from “no tech” to “low tech” to “high tech”. I have used many of the items on their “no tech” list such as pencil grips, raised line paper, slanted surfaces, communication boards, scribes, number lines, graphic organizers and some of which have been used in whole class settings. Additionally, I have used a number of the items on their “low tech” list such as visual timers, FM systems, audio books, spell checkers and so on. Following the presentation, I would say that my experience with assertive tech has been varied but that my experience with “high tech” assistive technology has been the most limited. Additionally, reading one of the related articles this week allowed me to reexamine my definition of assistive technology. The article stated that assistive technology refers to

“any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off-the-shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities” (Alkahtani, 2013, p. 68)

Some of the “high tech” assistive technology I have used includes RAZ Kids and Clicker Connect. RAZ Kids is an e-reading tool that I use with my entire class during Daily 5. Not only is RAZ Kids an assistive tool as it allows for students to listen to reading, but it is also an assessment technology that uses a variety of means to assess student decoding and comprehension.

Clicker Connect is a writing support tool that I have recently started to learn about. I have some students in my classroom who have tried it out but are waiting devices and approval of the app to see if they will have access throughout the year. I think this tool would be very helpful for beginning writers and struggling writers to help improve organization, writing ease and writing skills.

Some of the benefits of assistive technology that I have experienced have been through the lens of the universal design model. Universal design for learning (UDL) calls for mainstreaming of assistive technology and creation of an environment that can be accessed by all students regardless of their ability. In one of the videos that the group presented this week, the speaker discussed how assistive tech tools can be taught to all students and eventually those who do not need it will stop using it while those who it remains critical for will continue and not feel as if they have been singled out because the tool was presented with equal access for all students. All students can benefit from Universal Design for learning. In fact, the UDL states that accommodations are “necessary for some, and good for all” (Sider & Maich, 2014).  The benefits I have experienced with my students (many of which are discussed in this article) include but are not limited to:

  • ability for students to become more deeply involved in the classroom community and greater school community
  • inspires a deeper love of learning and more positive experience at school
  • decreases undesired behaviour
  • opportunities for student independence
  • improved self-esteem and confidence in abilities
  • increased organization and classroom management

Alternatively, there are always limitations with each technology that we introduce. Some of the limitations, that I or my students have experienced include:

  • cost barriers – lack of funding
  • waiting time for approval of devices/apps
  • lack of professional development for usage of new tools
  • limited number of devices for access
  • tech related issues such as wifi connectivitiy issues

This week, I was able to redefine what assistive technology means to me and to reexamine the ways in which I have experienced and used assistive technology. I am eager to read my fellow EC&I classmates’ blog posts this week to learn about some of the assistive technology tools that they use!


Practicing with Plickers

This week, our professor Alec, asked us to explore an assessment technology that is new to us. I am choosing the tool called Plickers. I heard about Plickers a few months ago and have recently started using it in my classroom on occasion. I was able to use it a couple times last year and just this week, my current students used it for the first time.

Plickers is a free assessment tool which provides a quick and easy check for understanding from students. I chose to explore this tool because my students really liked using Kahoot! however because we only had access to 5 iPads, not all students were able to participate at the same time or they would have to participate in groups which did not provide an accurate picture of student understanding.

There was no significant challenges to setting up Plickers. It is quite easy to use and I was able to get going with it quite quickly. Plickers uses coded multiple choice cards. I chose to print the cards on cardstock and laminate them to ensure durability throughout the year. My students keep the same card all year to ensure further ease of use for me! Additionally, while this tool can be used for both formative and summative assessment, I primarily use it as a tool for formative assessment and unit reviews prior to summative assessments.

Some of the other pros for using this tool include:

  • Very simple to use for students.  They just need to rotate a card to show their answer.
  • Very simple for teachers to use the app, to scan, and to project answers.
  • Plickers cards are easy to handle, and come in different sizes typical to larger auditoriums, and in larger size fonts for younger students to be able to read.
  • Students are engaged. It’s fun! They are eager to get the correct answer because they get anonymous feedback following each question.
  • It is non-threatening to use because their names are not being used to show correct or incorrect responses. However, as the teacher, I can see their names on my phone so I can easily assess who is being successful with the questions in real-time.

On the other hand, many of us are aware of the cons of using a multiple choice assessment.

If you’d like more information, here is a review of Plickers by Common Sense Media. Or check out this teacher review: 5 Reasons to Try Plickers.

If you haven’t tried Plickers, I recommend that you do!


Web 3.0

This week, my group presented on Web 1.0 and 2.0. We discussed everything from the history of the web to theories of learning as they relate to the web to creating a collaborative document using Web 1.0 and 2.0 tools and finally to a discussion of social media which is a huge part of Web 2.0. We had just got our heads wrapped around Web 1.0 and 2.0 and then….Alec threw a Web 3.0 blog prompt at us!

What the heck is Web 3.0 anyway?

Alec asked us to think about the following thoughts:

“The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being, and people influence the development and content of the web.  The evolution of the web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and now to Web 3.0 can be used as a metaphor of how education should also be evolving, as a movement from Education 1.0 toward that of Education 3.0.  The Web, Internet, Social Media, and the evolving, emerging technologies have created a perfect storm or convergence of resources, tools, open and free information access.” (Jackie Gerstein)

Gerstein’s metaphor of a “perfect storm” of resources, tools, open and free information access is a great description of what the web has become. We all know there are endless tools to use, information is endless and there are pros and cons to each click we make on the web. The potential effect that each of our clicks has is part of this storm. Our choices with the current web are endless but there is implications for everything we do.

This chart gives some ideas of what the world and education will look like as it has evolved in different stages of the web:

I would like to wrap up the blog post by examining the following thoughts…

This article provides some great examples of how Web 3.0 will effect education. The responses are presented by a few leading tech / education gurus. Here are a few of my favourite responses:

  • “For a generation, schools spent money on hardware and software, and the results didn’t point to the idea that these technologies were demonstrably improving learning outcomes. Now, we have millions of kinds of devices that can access the Internet. So it’s not necessarily that you have to buy one type and it equals educational technology. Eventually, all machines will be Internet-connected, and the “educational” piece will be in the way teachers use the digital world to foster learning” – @BlakePlock
  • “Another great disruption is the fact that there are people who are going to say, “We can do all this for next to nothing.” Sebastian Thrun of the Stanford AI class and his team at Udacity realized they can amortize costs across thousands of students and ultimately might be able to offer a computer science degree for as little as $500. Contrast that with the cost of a college education, and you see just how disruptive this could be”- Tim O’Reilly 
  • “Good teachers have always involved students in complex projects. But in the past, it’s been more difficult, with just the library down the hall and the teacher’s knowledge to guide them. As personal and continuous access to a Web 3.0 environment becomes a reality, teachers will be able to develop engaging, interesting and more complex assignments that are supported by a variety of resources. Students can understand more about, say, backyard bugs by engaging with an entomologist online, or earn a digital badge as they demonstrate advanced search techniques” – @OfficeofEdTech

Thanks for reading!