This week’s objectives in learning how to sew were the following:
Get a work area setup.
Get acquainted with my sewing machine and learn the basics in how it works.
Cut some pieces of fabric in shapes with straight edges and some with curves.
Practice sewing in straight lines and in curves.
Practice my spacing.
Verify and adjust my machine for the quality of my stitching.
Test different stitching patterns.
Setup of a workstation was simple, I didn’t want to interfere with my wife’s sewing station, therefore I took a temporary folding table and installed it in a corner of my basement.
I ran a power cord and installed my old 1970’s vintage Singer Fashion Mate 252. Although old, this machine is robust and simple, two attributes that bode well for a beginner with my level of skill.
In order to have a good reference for the workings of the machine, I searched the Internet for the user’s manual and to my surprise, singer provided the PDF to its original manual right on their website. It’s great to see a company care and support its products so well.
To my amazement, I found the manual to be a fantastic beginning resource to not only learn the machine but also learn how to sew! The manual includes fantastic illustrations and simple to follow step by step instructions to guide you into properly using the machine and also learn the basics of sewing. I love the hand drawn illustrations; they provide a great visual support to the instructions and they really add to the easy of learning.
Once having threaded the machine, it was time to do my first stitches. To accomplish this, I used small pieces of paper that I fed through the machine. The contract, the flatness and the rigidity of the paper make those first stitches easy due to not having to worry about alignment of cloth and its stretchy properties.
I tried to sew straight lines and made small adjustments to the machine as I went. I even tried a zigzag stitch! These first few lines of stitching allowed me to comprehend the feel of the machine but learning how it was going to react to my inputs. I gained the feel of the pedal and was able to register in my mind the corrects sounds and the movements this machine normally makes. I then preceded with cutting a few pieces of cotton the sew them together for form a simple rudimentary pocket. This allowed me to practice sewing along a curve and allowed me to gain the feeling of sewing actual cloth. I took my time, and everything went well. The results are, to me, satisfactory.
Finding and exploring new digital tools can often be a challenge. The learning curve associated with deciphering how to use a new application can often mean a significant amount of time is spent before any meaningful and useable things come out. I find it a rare occurrence to come across game changing applications that revolutionize or completely transform how I work in my personal or professional life. However, with new applications appearing on a daily basis, I find it frequent that I find applications that remove just enough friction in my digital life it’s worthwhile to adopt given the increase in efficiency to my work.
In an attempt to make some of my teaching practice more visual, I decided to explore the Google Chrome extension called Screencastify. Being weary of my privacy, I initially was disappointed to see that I had to login with a Google account. Although I’m aware that free applications monetize your information, I find it a big pill to swallow to have the ability to use a simple screen-casting application. If it weren’t for this assignment, I wouldn’t have proceeded with the installation purely on the principal of privacy.
The next window that appeared was once again a bit disconcerting. Due to having logged in with my work email, the language changed to French. This didn’t bother me, however the quality of the French displayed in this window is so poorly translated that I’m left wondering if the interface will be comprehendible. I’ve often encountered translated applications that were so poorly translated that it made them extremely difficult and frustrating to use. For me, as I work exclusively in French, this is a very important feature that can be a deal breaker.
Once authorized, permissions must be set for the application to access the camera and microphone built into the computer. This is reasonable considering the nature of screencasts. Once again, giving access to such fundamental hardware on my computer to the Chrome browser is unnerving as it expands my risk vectors for online security and privacy. How can I be assured that my video and audio is not going to directly to the Google advertisement machine? I guess I’ll have to assume that proper encryption is used by Google and my information will be protected.
Once the initial setup is complete, you are greeted with a much-appreciated tutorial video that goes through the important points in how to use the application. This is fantastic as it improves the learning curve and allows me to more quickly get to using the application.
Once I got everything running and made a few test screencasts, I prepared the following screencast to give a tour of the software and elaborate on its advantages and disadvantages.
Even though Screencastify is far from being the ideal screencasting tool available on the market, I think this Chrome extension, or others like it, could prove useful in many aspects of my teaching practice. As part of my robotics class, many of the things I must teach have to be accomplished on the computer. A screencasting tool is perfect to record tutorials on how to use software and how to accomplish specific tasks within those pieces of software. As an example, in the unit on 3D modeling, I could use screencasts to introduce the software as well as explain many of the functionalities within it. I could assign some of these video tutorials as homework in order to preserve in person class time to actual 3D modeling and helping the students solve problems related to their assignments. This could increase the pace of the class without introducing significant amounts of stress. In addition, once these videos are completed, they could be used in the years to come resulting in freeing more of my time to prepare even better course materials.
Students could also use a tool like Screecastify to share their work, their challenges and their successes to their classmates as well as me, the teacher. In one example, we could flip the classroom and ask each student to learn a new digital skill and share with their classmates this new skill using a screencast. I recognize this would require a computer and internet access for all students and thus situations where there exists a digital divide might prove to be challenging.
Alternatives to Screencastify exist and one must weigh the pros and the cons of each type of application in order to choose the right one for you. In his blog, Matteo recommends Screencast-O-Matic. I suggest you watch his review to see if it works better than Screencastify in your situation.
Overall, I see the large potential of such an application and how it could be an effective collaborative tool on many levels. Not all students are comfortable recording themselves or presenting in front of others. In the context of oral presentations, the intimacy of using a computer and not presenting in person in front of one’s peers, screencasts could be a solution to this challenge for many students.
Having been a teacher for over 12 years, my perception of my role as a teacher has changed in many ways. If the first few years, I viewed myself as conduit of information to that had to be channeled effectively to my students. Today, I view my job as a teacher as a curator of information and a guide to assist my students in interpreting and navigating the ocean of knowledge the internet has to offer. With my guidance and the structures, I provide within my classroom, I hope my students learn the skills and the abilities that will prove critical once they leave the confines of school and enter their adult lives. It’s my hope that they use these skills to navigate life and make good decisions based on good values and good logic. As Brown and Adler mention in their article, Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Trail, and Learning 2.0:
The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning. What do we mean by “social learning”? Perhaps the simplest way to explain this concept is to note that social learning is based on the premise that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions, especially with others, around problems or actions. The focus is not so much on what we are learning but on how we are learning.
By controlling the environment in our classes where our students develop, we as teachers can influence, in a calculated manner, how students are learning. There is no sense in competing with the quantity and quality of the information the internet can provide; however, we can influence and teach our students how to manage these strong sources of information so that they can be properly interpreted and processed. This is the type of social learning that can be achieved through the use of social media in the classroom. By providing a safe environment where students can make mistakes and takes risks, we can guide them in being responsible digital citizens.
In the recent past, it was possible to live in two separate worlds, the online world and the real world. The ever-connected nature of our modern society creates a situation where people are now, more than ever, forced to integrate their digital lives with their real world lives. The online world is now the real world and the real world is more than ever online. We as a society have moved the majority of our social conversations to the internet and this is where we must concentrate our efforts in helping our students.
Like Michael Wesch postulates in his TEDxKC talk, we must help people in their transition from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able. With instant access to information, students have to gain the ability to not only contextualize and be critical of the information that flows on a daily basis, they must also gain the ability to act on the knowledge they have in concrete and positive ways. The integration of social media into our classrooms represents, to me, a way to foster Wesch’s idea of knowledge-ability in our students.
With social media and its ability to open the classroom to the world, concerns related to privacy and safety are always the first things that come to my mind. One of the 21 century literacies that is presented in The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies is:
Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.
Much like Alfed Nobel and his creation of dynamite, all the best intentions in the world will not always lead to positive and productive use of such technology. As we have seen in the past decade, the weaponization of information though the spreading of fake news and the dissemination of pseudo-scientific misinformation can cause real harm to a society. Much like the use of propaganda in the last century, the control of information can guide society to very dark places. With large companies like Google and Amazon recording, studying and modeling our every move online, my information is being commoditized and sold. Although I’d like to think I’m just another number in an infinitely large database across multiple servers in hundreds of locations across the world, I’m convinced the Internet I see might not be the Internet others see due to companies like Google personalizing my portal to the web.
Our students have to navigate this world, and as soon as they log onto the Internet at a very young age, their electronic profile is already being built. The idea that a large corporation owns so much information on so many individuals is starting to spark many political conversations across the world. In the European Union, the Right to be Forgotten has provided a mechanism for a person to erase their online profile. This leads me to believe we should have a similar mechanism everywhere in the world as this might allow kids to live their online childhoods not having to worry that if they make a mistake as a 13-year-old, it will not haunt them for the rest of their lives. Another interesting regulation from the EU, which has its pros and cons, is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which aims “to give control to individuals over their personal data”. With all of these initiatives, I have a bit of hope that someday control of our data will come back to the individual.
Building resilience and “knowledge-ability” in our students can be a daunting task. It is one that I personally don’t feel like I’m well tooled to address as of today. Gradually, I’m gaining confidence in the possibilities of social media in my educational practice. I know my pessimism is getting the best of me at the moment and I acknowledge the many fantastic things social networks can bring to the lives of students. I need to leave this zone of stagnation and take more risks as a teacher, more specifically in the world of using social media in my classroom. How can I expect my students to learn the skills I hope they acquire without me being good digital citizenship that they can observe? How do I take the plunge without having the fear of drowning in the deep end of the SAMR model? (Thanks Brooke for bringing this version to my attention via Twitter!)
Contemplating my major digital project for EC&I 831, I felt an opportunity had arisen for me to dedicate a certain amount of time towards reaching a goal that I have been wanting to achieve for many years. I’m a maker. The idea of making things that are useful in everyday life is very appealing to me. I’ve engineered many electronic projects; I’ve built a garage all by myself and built a few pieces of furniture just to name a few of my exploits. I fix anything and everything, however there is one large domain that remains to be conquered and now is the time.
Sewing is going to be my next frontier to explore as a maker. Mostly reserved to the women in my life, I think it’s a skill worth dedicating time and energy towards learning as it can prove useful in a wide variety of ways. From fixing clothing to making my own custom creations, I view sewing as a lifelong skill that will forever be an asset. Much of the inspiration for this idea comes from Adam Savage and his One Day Build where made his EDC1 bag. Watching him gives me hope that I can do the same.
My wife is an avid seamstress with a well-stocked sewing studio. At my disposal is every kind of machine that one might need to accomplish sewing tasks. (I have no idea what the difference is between a regular sewing machine and a surging machine, that will come in step one.) Although my wife will definitely be an excellent resource during this project, it’s my intention to mostly rely on her expertise for feedback on my progress and the outcomes of my projects. I really want to see how far I can get using books and online resources in my learning experiment. Of course, your feedback will be crucial!
There are so many things to learn! It will be impossible for me to become a master at sewing; however, I hope to establish a solid base that will allow me to feel confident when a new potential sewing project might arise. As any good teacher, one must have a plan. Learning how to sew is much too vague of an outcome to be realistically achievable. As a learner, I learn best by doing and I will approach this project in much the same way. I intend to start with a simple project and work my way towards more complex projects as I progress over the next few months.
Step one: Learn the machines and their capabilities.
My initial step will be to use online tutorials and articles to learn how to use the machines. Youtube will my primary source of material but I’m sure other sources will crop up as I get going. During this step, I intend to learn how to thread and setup the machines properly. Subsequently, I will use scrap material to start practicing using the machines by sewing things together and evaluating how close I come to the desired outcome. Once I have gained enough confidence, I will attempt to make a simple pencil case.
Step two: Learn to use patterns and following build instructions
Project: Make a small pouch using plans from Savage Industries.
In this step, I will purchase a pattern for a small pouch from Savage Industries. This will initiate me to using patterns and the steps to follow when considering a larger more complex project. I will install my first zipper and hopefully learn how professionally designed cloth projects work.
Step three: Learning more advances sewing techniques
Project.: Make and EDC2 from a kit from Savage Industries.
This step will involve using a more complex kit to make a bag that I intend to use as my new school bag. This project will use many more advanced techniques that will have been built and acquired from the previous two projects. Through my research, many people on the internet have built this project as their first sewing project, thus I feel like this will be attainable.
Bonus step: Transition to my first piece of clothing
Project: Make a Lab Coat for school.
If I’m able to complete my three previous projects, I’d like to find a pattern to make a custom lab coat to use when I’m teaching my science classes. This will require custom measuring to fit a garment to my body and represents, to me, the ultimate degree of difficulty.
As I grow older, I find that social media is taking ever increasing larger portions of my time. I’m not proud of this reality and must make a conscious effort to limit and control its usage as to minimize the potential negative impacts it may have on my duties and responsibilities as a father, a husband and a teacher. I recognize social media can have potential positive impacts in many aspects of life, but the older I get, my views on the matter are becoming more pessimistic. As we observed during our assignment on the history of social media, there isn’t much optimism in the current state of social media.
I started my social media consumption as a kid in rural Saskatchewan when we finally had our first internet connection via a 28Kbps modem. The software of choice at that point was MSN messenger. All of my friends were on this same network and I remember many late nights of instant messaging with my friends from all across the province and even across the country. As a very shy and awkward adolescent that didn’t have the gift of the gab, internet messaging allowed me to share and communicate with friends with the benefit of using the written word. The ability to pause and reflect before committing an idea to a conversation was very powerful for me. Some very good friendships evolved within this world and it, without a doubt, helped me develop into a more confident person.
As I entered my university career in 2003, web forums took a larger place in my life as I had finally discovered a place on the internet where my interests in motorsports and technology could be quenched. MSN messenger was still the method of communication of choice as I didn’t have a cellular telephone and text messaging was much too expensive and restrictive to be practical. It’s at the end of my university experience around 2007, that me and all of my university friends joined the now infamous Facebook. It was the perfect tool that arose at the perfect time in our lives. As everyone was going their separate ways, Facebook allowed me and my cohort of friends to stay in touch. Twelve years later, many of those friendships continue to develop and evolve. The recent developments with regards to influence Facebook had in the results of the 2016 American general election has me questioning how I might be influenced by social media in my everyday decision making.
Today, MSN messenger is no longer in existence and the ubiquity of smart phones and internet access has pushed me to more recent social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram. Although Facebook still has an important place in my social media usage, I’ve found it as the tool of choice to know what is going on with family and friends. Over the past years, I have found Facebook to be a terrible platform for news and current events as it is only curated with my own friends and family. A much better platform for me to get the pulse of the Internet and the world is Twitter. Its micro-blogging structure lends itself to be an effective tool for the broadcasting and consumption of real-time information. In addition, the use of hashtags like #eci831 and curated list allows you to filter content in useful and effective ways.
Personally, I tend towards being a consumer of social media as opposed to actively posting information. My worries related to online privacy and the fear of posting something I would someday regret comes to odds with being a very active social media user. As a result, I’m very hesitant to use social media in my professional life. Although I have learned about many of the wonderful things that can be accomplished with its use in the context of my career as a teacher, I’m still hesitant to take the full plunge. Other than the privacy implications associated with social media, the ever-present technological divide between many of the families in my school remains a serious challenge. In addition, it is rather difficult to provide computer access to all the students to our school for budgetary reasons. I can’t fathom using a technological tool where all students can’t have equal access thus equal opportunity from which to benefit.
The only social media tool I use in my professional life is YouTube. As I’m at times absent from the classroom and it’s very difficult to find specialized French speaking science teachers, I often record lessons and post them to allow students the opportunity to learn when I’m away from the classroom. This has proven to be a very effective tool and has become a valuable tool in my pedagogy. In fact, some of my classes have accumulated over 1700 views! Perhaps I should take this success as a glimpse into the possibility of further technological use related to social media in my classroom. Perhaps my experience in EC&I 831 will push me further and diminish my reticence if using new social media platforms.
Another challenge I’ve struggled with is the separation of my personal and professional life related to the use of social media. At the moment, I don’t think the mixing of my personal and professional lives on social media is a good idea. I’m aware of many teachers who manage multiple social media accounts to overcome this problem, I’m however still concerned with the blending of both situations. Perhaps this view will change in the future, but at the moment, I cannot justify the stress and the energy involved in managing different personas.
Over the past few years, I must say my use of social media has brought me much joy and happiness. It has, however consumed much of my life and I’m not sure if the time invested in using social media has been worth the return. Exhibit A, my screen time statistics for the last week. Good or bad? At this point, I’m not too sure.
I’m colour-blind. Although this is a minor disability, it has affected me quite often throughout my childhood and even today as an adult. One can take for granted the use of colours in the world we live. Here are a few examples that can lead to frustration for colour-blind people on a daily basis:
Colour coded systems in books and activities
Using colours to divide teams in sports
Using colours in art (I hated when teachers asked me to colour my art as I didn’t have the ability to pick proper colour combinations and always had people commenting on how bizarre it was that I chose certain colours.)
Choosing clothes to wear every morning (I’ve received many comments on my “interesting colour combinations”)
Cooking food (Make sure to check the colour of the meat for doneness)
Measuring pH as a science teacher using colour pH strips
Identifying minerals and rocks when teaching Earth Science 30.
Using colour codes when working on electronics (resistor codes are based on colours)
Fixing my car/home wiring
Describing and object and being asked what colour it is.
Purchasing furniture or objects where colours is key.
Cleaning certain things.
Constantly being asked what colour things are because people know you’re colour-bling. (Nothing is more stressful and anxiety inducing.)
As one can attest, we use colour every day in hundreds of ways. Experienced colour-blind people are almost totally unnoticeable in society due to learning tricks and using certain technologies to adapt and make sure their disability doesn’t become an inability to function. In this post, I’ll be sharing a few of my experiences with my disability and how I’ve used this experience to help some of my students who are also colour-blind in my classroom and school. Some of these technologies are very simple and, in many cases obvious, but we must be careful not to ignore simple solutions in terms of accessibility. Solutions and tools can be everywhere, and we must keep our mind open to new solutions that aren’t necessarily high-tech software and hardware solutions.
Colour coded activities and learning resources. Many teachers use colour codes when teaching grammar and writing structure. Colours can also be used separate students in groups, mark sections in an assignment or even be used as a formative assessment tool. Imagine a student knowing certain answers but having to result in guessing the right colour as they cannot distinguish the right answer. An excellent example of how to go about solving this problem is the use of shapes and symbols in conjunction with colour. Providing an alternative makes the activity more inclusive to all students. An excellent example of this method what presented by the team of Mélanie, Sage, Sonja and Justin during their presentation on assessment technologies. Using Kahoot, they posed a question to the group and displayed on the screen were colour coded answers linked to a chart of results that was also colour coded. Linked with each colour was a shape which I really appreciated as it allowed me to confirm the link between my answer and the displayed result. This was a great example of using an assistive technology in a simple yet effective manner.
Traffic lights. Traffic lights are built in such a way that the coloured lights are always in the same order. When the lights are vertical, red is always at the top, yellow is always in the middle and green is always at the bottom. When traffic lights are in a horizontal configuration, the red light is always on the left, the yellow light is in the middle and the green light is on the right. Of course, this situation doesn’t present itself often in the classroom, but I’ve met many teachers who use traffic light images or traffic light analogies as tools to teach certain concepts in the classroom. On occasion, I’ve seen handmade posters of traffic lights on classroom walls that were incorrect to the standard. Although this is a small detail in the eyes of a person who is not colour-blind, it can be a large source of stress and frustration for a student who suffers from colour-blindness. Imaging how a student feels when he or she knows how to answer but simply cannot get it right due to not being able to pick the right colour. By observing the standards of traffic lights and being consistent, the traffic light analogy can still be used in the classroom by everyone, as longs as the colour-blind students know of the standard and it is applied properly.
Cooking class. Nothing is more frustration than trying to cook a steak for guests on a beautiful summer day and trying to see if a steak is rare (red), medium (pink) or well done (grayish?). This is only one example where colour is used in the world of cooking. I’ve had students express their frustration while attending cooking class as they felt like they would never be able to gain the skills required to excel in the kitchen. Let’s also underline the safety factor in consuming unproperly prepared foods.
In this situation, science and technology come to the rescue as assistive technologies. Thermometers (especially electronic thermometers) are becoming the tool of choice in judging the doneness of meats and many other food items. Over the past few years, their low cost and their ubiquitous availability has made their use almost universal in most home and commercial kitchens. Most renowned chefs now encourage people to abandon the use of colour in judging food preparation in favour of thermometers as they are more accurate and increase the safety factor in cooking. In addition to thermometers, using mass/temperature/time charts can also be used to help all students. The kitchen in my school uses electronic scales on a daily basis to measure the mass of certain ingredients which allows students to determine the temperature and the time needed to cook things by using a variety of standard charts.
Once again, these are not high-tech solutions in the world of assistive technologies but are another example of technologies that can help everyone and make the world a better and more inclusive place.
Teaching electronics and learning resistor colour codes. The Saskatchewan Grade 9 curriculum has a unit on electricity and in this unit, colours are often used to distinguish parts of a circuit and in certain situations electronic components such as resistors. As resistors can be quite small, writing their values on the component itself would not work, as a result, colour codes are used as a way to identify their resistance value. Students and teachers who are colour-bling are at a big disadvantage. In my amateur radio class, we were even requited to memorise resistor colour code despite the fact that I could never use this concept in the real world. To overcome this situation, I purchased very inexpensive digital multimeters, around 10$ each, as a way for students to measure the actual value of the component without having to guess using colour codes.
This technology has an additional benefit that it allows us to more completely and thoroughly analyse circuits using actual numerical data which removes ambiguity for everyone involved. In addition, the kids love using electronic test equipment! In the past few years, inexpensive component analyzers have become available through internet resellers directly from China. These fantastic little tools allow students to test electronic components within seconds and verify their type and their values. Once again, technology provides a level playing field for those who don’t have perfect colour vision.
I remember being in elementary school as a colour-blind student and having large amounts of stress associated with art projects. I guarded my coloured pencil crayons with vigilance as the shared crayons provided by the teacher often didn’t have the name of the colour on the pencil. Some students sharpened the pencils from the end where the colour was identified and with wax crayons, the paper wrappers that had the name of the colour was often removed and lost. I cannot convey the stress associated with trying to find a colour and not knowing if it even was available in front of me due to unavailable labeling.
Assistive technologies are fantastic, and many people rely on them with many people not even noticing their importance. I urge every teacher to keep in mind my experiences when considering activities and tools for learning. I acknowledge that many students have much more severe needs than the examples I have provided related to colour-blindness, but we must not ignore mild and light needs related to assistive technologies. For the well-being of everyone we must remain attentive to the needs of all students and recognise that adaptive technologies can assist students that don’t need them and provide and richer learning experience in each case.
In application programming, upgrading versions to a “x.0’ step is a giant leap in functionality and features. Accompanied with this technological leap in software are often many bugs and problems that make transition to new promise-filled software difficult and at times purely frustrating. Over time, these bugs and problems come to pass through new releases of software in x.1, x.2 and x.3 releases. Personally, I always dread x.0 releases and often wait for x.1 and x.2 releases before updating software on any of my computers, phones or tablets.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), the paradigm shift that took us from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 was not as drastic as in the software world. As we were prompted by the presentation team of Jana, Katie, Brooke and Kyla O., to recall our personal experience of the shift between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, I had a difficult time identifying any drastic transitions that changed the way I used the internet. My experience was so gradual over time that the paradigm shift was not evident in my experience. Perhaps due to living in rural Saskatchewan with internet access over a 28,8 Kbps modem and eventually a 56kbps modem, my experience with the web was very limited and lagged by many years those whom lived in more urban areas of the province. Although not software related, the big shift I remember as a child at the time of the transition between the Web 1.0 and the Web 2.0 was the arrival of broadband internet in my community. Having a 1.5 Mbps always-on ADSL line changed the way I was able to use the internet. My life changed from using the internet with specific tasks in mind and maximizing my time online as to be as efficient as possible to “Browsing” the internet in my free time and exploring every nook and cranny the web had to offer without worrying about tying up the phone line in the house. The internet became a utility as opposed to an occasionally used service.
The world of education has also witness large shifts much like the web and I would argue that as the internet shifted from web 1.0 to web 2.0, the world of education also changed forever. As the new “social” web evolved as mentioned by Daniel Nations, so did the relationship students and teachers also had with technology and the internet. The internet was initially used as source of information that tried to emulate libraries and did fairly well to a certain extent, however, once the internet became interactive, it transformed into a versatile tool where the possibilities are endless. From enabling effective communications to opening new windows into the realities of the world, students have never had so much power and control over their education. As it is said: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Our students have grown up as digital citizens and have been thrust into the world of the social internet without necessarily having the tools to cope and navigate this vast world. As a result, our jobs as teachers has transitioned from being transmitters of information and knowledge to being stewards and guides in deciphering the firehose of information that is constantly entering the minds of our students through social and traditional internet media.
What is the future of education? What will education 3.0 look like? While teachers in Saskatchewan contemplate exactly these questions through the reimagine education campaign, we are evolving our methods of teaching by keeping in mind the relatively “new” approaches related to learning theories like constructivism and connectivism. To me, the future still looks a bit fuzzy. I’m certain that technology and the internet will play an increasing role related to how we as teachers accomplish our mandate. My initial thoughts lead me to believe that like Tim Berners-Lee eloquently agues in his TED talk about the future of the web, we will be in a world of linked data. Companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook are gathering such vast amounts of data that interpreting and using that data can become extremely complex. Finding links in data is the future of how we will use the internet and make new discoveries. I believe we as teachers will become facilitators for helping our student acquire knowledge by assisting them in making these links in data that will be freely available with technology.
An excellent example of how we need to help our kids think is presented in the following podcast by Adam Sage where Joe DiRisi goes through his scientific discoveries and how they are all done by finding links in data. Enjoy this one, it’s an awesome episode!
I’ve always dreamed of teaching a distance education course and perhaps in the coming years, I’ll have the opportunity to realize that goal. Having been a student of many distance education courses at a high school level and this being my 5thdistance course at the university level, I’ve been part of many different formats and have used a panoply of technological tools to assist in my learning experience. I’ve used tools like Moodle and Blackboard as content management systems. I’ve used Hotmail, YahooMail, First Class and Gmail as email systems for communications. I’m used ICQ, MSN and Gmail for instant messaging. I’ve used scanners, digital cameras, faxes, e-mail and the postal service to send and receive assignments. I’ve used Tandberg video conference systems, Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom to interact visually with my teachers.
Through the use of all these technologies, I’ve come to realize that there are pros and cons to every tool we use as teachers. EC&I 833 has introduced to me even more tools that could prove useful in the context of both distance education classes and also traditional face to face classes. As I evolve in my teaching career, the more I tend to lean towards teaching in an environment that resembles Blended Learning. Although there are still many technological challenges related to availability of computers and reliability of said technology, I’m finding increasing amounts of success in integrating varies technologies within the courses I teach.
As communication is essential in the context of efficient learning, this is the domain in which I see most progress in my teaching practice. Although my school still encourages the use of paper agendas as a tool for communicating with home, I find it more efficient to move towards online calendars such as Google Agenda. The sharing of dates and important time sensitive information through a public online calendar has proven quite effective as it removes many of the mistake factors associated with paper agendas. The ability to subscribe to online calendars and receive notifications though email or smart phone apps makes distributing information very efficient.
Although email is not as prevalent with newer generations of students, I find it is still quite efficient for longform communication and to distribute electronic documents. The ability to retain a history of communications with students, parents and colleagues is very important when evaluating the progression of students. Perhaps in the future, I’ll progress to using an online collaboration tool such as Slack or dig into the world of Google Classroom.
A newer tool that I would like to integrate in the future is Remind. As more and more of my students now have Smartphones in their pockets, it’s only natural to utilize a tool like this to once again, keep open then lines of communications with students and parents. With all these technologies at our disposal as teachers, there are no excuses for lack of communication between teachers, parents and students.
Tools that have been presented in EC&I 833 that have drawn most of my curiosity are some of the formative assessment and data collecting tools that are being used every week. Mentimeter, Padlet and Polly are all interactive data collecting visualization tools that provide an unequalled amount of interactivity between students and teachers that otherwise would be difficult using traditional classroom activities based on pen, paper and oral communication. Although I have yet to integrate any of these technologies in my classroom, they will definitely be part of my teaching in the years to come as they provide extremely valuable feedback that I would otherwise not be able to collect. Their use during our weekly class has opened my eyes to their usefulness and their power.
Other Learning technologies
Technologies I have been exploiting regularity over the past years has been things like YouTube, Kahn Academy and Google Docs. I often use YouTube as a source of content for explaining certain concepts that are extremely difficult to explain using a whiteboard or even words. The visuals that accompany an online video or animation is priceless when trying to understand certain concepts. I acknowledge that finding and vetting content can be time consuming and frustrating at times, but on occasion, nuggets of gold can be found and become an essential part of your pedagogy. When I find a great video or clip, I don’t hesitate to download it (I know we aren’t supposed to do this as it violates the terms of service or certain companies, therefore I won’t be mentioning any tools that accomplish this task.) so as to never lose it. In addition, at times, I created my own videos for when I’m away from the classroom or when there is a concept that I would like to review but would take too much time to redo in class. I can simply send the link to students and they can view the video on their own if they think they need it, thus allowing everyone to spend their time more efficiently.
Online collaboration tools like Google Docs/Slides represent a central part of how I teach my classes. Sharing live documents and having students work collaboratively on projects provides great value that could otherwise never be accomplished. As witnessed in our own EC&I 833 course, these tools allow student to work together not only in the context of the classroom but also at home. I’ve witnessed many students collaborate together over weekends and many evenings on projects which is impossible otherwise. In parallel with Google Docs/Slides, video conferencing software such a Facetime, Skype or Zoom has allowed me to break down barriers related student isolation. Although I do not use these videoconferencing tools often as I teach face to face 99% of the time, the occasions I’ve had to utilize them has been a lifesaver in terms of efficiency of communication.
One Special Mention
Dropbox is the first application I install on every computer I get. If contains my life’s work as a teacher and without it, I would be lost. The ability to jump from one machine to another and having your work and your content be everywhere is priceless. Too many of my colleagues rely on USB keys and one hard drive to contain all of their teaching data. (Exams, presentations, handouts, etc.) The tears and the sadness I have witnessed over the past few years related to people losing all of their data due to horrible backup practice has led me to believe that a service like this one is ESSENTIAL to all teachers. The automated backup of my data is of such great value that I do not hesitate to pay a yearly subscription for 1TB of storage. There are other companies that offer similar services, but Dropbox is the one that I have been using for almost a decade and could not live without.