Author Archives: Laurie

Summary of Learning

The past six weeks have flown by and have been filled with thought provoking conversations. I really enjoyed the debate format and learned so much from hearing both sides of each topic. This class pushed me to examine and challenge my opinions and for that I have Alec and all of you to thank!

I was really hoping to try a new tool to create my summary of learning and had my mind made up about using VideoScribe. I watched all the how to videos and was ready to begin creating. However, I did not leave myself enough time to be able to play around with it and I found I was getting frustrated as features were not working the way I wanted them to. I have heard great things about it and love how the final product turns out. It’s not that it was difficult to use, it was just finicky and I was in a time crunch as I wanted to be sure I met the due date and have a final product I was proud of. After some time invested, I decided to abandon VideoScribe and went back to a tool I was familiar with, WeVideo. I wanted to make it look a bit different than just using all of the stock images so I also used Canva and Google Slides to create backgrounds and other images. I am pleased with how it turned out!

The Final Debate – Social Media and Social Justice

What a debate to end the semester! As always, both sides presented strong arguments and the discussion that ensued was powerful. Jacquie and Mike started us off with the definition of social justice and explained according to author Sonia Nieto social justice in education includes four components:

  1. Challenges, confronts, and disrupts misconceptions, untruths and stereotypes.
  2. Provides students with resources needed to their full potential.
  3. Draws on all students talents and strengths.
  4. Promotes critical thinking and supports agency for social change.

Their video also discussed the views of Sydney Chaffee, a teacher in the United States who strongly believes social justice belongs in our schools.

In her Ted Talk, Chaffee states:

Teachers don’t just teach subjects, we teach people. If we insist that education happens in a vacuum we do our students a disservice. We teach them education doesn’t really matter because it’s not relevant to what is happening all around them.

We know what is happening all around them. An entire world full of issues that aren’t necessarily written into specific outcomes in the curriculum. I believe our role as educators is to provide students with opportunities to develop critical thinking skills, to question, to challenge, to create informed opinions. We must do that through a social justice lens. I think that we all agreed with that statement. The debate really wasn’t about IF social justice should be taught but rather if social media be used to teach it.

Brad and Michala presented their side with a satirical look at the issues promoting social justice through social media can create. One point they made is do we really want students to go online to “pick fights with people”? Is opening them up to internet trolls going to be helpful? They also discussed the importance of building relationships and face to face communication. Both of which do not happen in the same way through social media. For me these are the biggest issue with becoming an activist online. I believe in social justice and have seen amazing examples of what students can do. I just am undecided if social media is always the best place. It is what prevents me from doing a lot of posting. I am on social media, I read a lot on twitter and “keep up” with friends and family on Facebook. But I don’t post a lot. I am really trying to be present online and want to develop my identity there as well. I struggle with posting things as I watch the cancel culture, as Alec called it, that we currently live in. One misstep online can be detrimental.

While our discussion was leading to extreme examples, Dean made a comment that really stuck with me. Social justice doesn’t have to be extreme, it can be things that get kids thinking about being a better human being. So very true! Michala then pointed out that something such as handing out food hampers fits that description but then why does it need to be tweeted out? What is the intent? To help others or to help others and get credit for it? So many things to think about!

The entire discussion was thought provoking and I am still reflecting on it. Melinda and Altan sharing their personal stories was courageous and powerful. Here I am thinking that I don’t like to always post things online but yet I have the choice. Their experiences really made me think about the privilege I have living in Canada. Jacquie’s final statement was eloquent, moving, and perfectly summarized the ideas and emotions of the night. I am linking the class video here as I want to be able to go back and listen to those words again.

While this post may not be as well put together, it’s because I feel there is still so much to learn and reflect on. I thank you all for such a powerful conversation.

Is Openness and Sharing in Schools Unfair to Our Kids?

This was one debate that I entered not feeling as informed. I wasn’t completely sure what I thought about the topic as it is a pretty broad statement. That was also made clear in topics that were brought up in the videos and discussion. There were so many ideas that could fit into openness and sharing.

Melinda and Altan started us off by agreeing that openness and sharing is unfair to our kids. The reasons they gave included privacy concerns, unfairness of open educational resources which can highlight the digital divide, and the open use of cellphones. Dean and Sherrie countered the argument saying that openness and sharing is fair as it provides meaningful learning opportunities which include teaching about and modelling digital citizenship, it encourages the 4Cs (connectivity, communication, creativity, and collaboration) and promotes learning on your own terms and at your own convenience. Both teams presented strong arguments for topics that all fit under the idea of openness and sharing.

Melinda and Altan discussed privacy and media release forms. I agree that these forms create many problems in our school due to lack of understanding of what they mean. I feel that goes for parents and for teachers. I too have seen many occasions where students had to sit in a different part of the gym so that the local media present did not get them on camera. That is heartbreaking to have to explain to a young student who doesn’t understand why they can’t be a part of what is going on with their classmates. For teachers, keeping track of who has permission for what type of media can also get to be a bit much. But those forms are important and parents need to have the choice to give consent.

Privacy issues also got me thinking about the apps and technology we use. Last semester as part of my final project I examined the terms of services and privacy guidelines of a few commonly used apps. Prior to the class I had never taken the time to read through those. It is definitely an eye opener! We often just click accept and don’t take the time to look into what we are giving companies access to. As teachers do we have that right to sign our students up to any account we would like to use? Is it ok for a teacher to decide that a students’ information can be used? In the school division I work for apps and programs are vetted and have been approved or denied for use with students. Criteria used to make that decision includes privacy and what the company does with students’ information. However, many teachers aren’t aware that there is a process in place. Often the need or want to use an app with students trumps privacy. Is that fair to students?

In the article Posting About Your Kids Online Could Damage Their Futures it states that “parents are already some of the biggest violators of their kids privacy”. That is easy to see if you are on Facebook or Instagram. In fact the article discuss the term “sharenting, which is the phenomenon of parents putting information about their children online”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing pictures of family and friends’ children, but is there a point of too much? Currently there is a lemon juice shot challenge that is making its way around Facebook. Parents are filming their children (I’ve seen as young as 3) sitting at a table doing a shot of lemon juice. Then, they challenge some other child to do the same in 24 hours or else they owe you a chocolate bar, slurpee, candy, etc. I don’t get it. Why are parents feeling this is something the social media world needs to see of their children? In the discussion the comment was made that parents make choices for their kids all the time. What about their digital footprint? I understand that a video of a five year old doing a lemon shot is not going to prevent someone from getting a job in the future but at what point does sharenting become too much?

The other part of this discussion that really stood for me was the oversharing that is done by teachers on social media. There are times when I have questioned why something was shared. As stated in our discussion, things that are shared need to be meaningful rather than a way to build your online reputation. In Mike Ribble’s book Digital Citizenship in Schools: Nine Elements All Students Should Know, he writes about the STEP process for posting online – stop, think, empathize, and post. This is a process that should be used by students and teachers. What is the purpose for posting something online? Are we willing to sacrifice privacy for promoting?

Dean and Sherrie also provided some very valid arguments. Sherrie’s rant was full of excellent information and was very well executed! Rather than try to summarize what she said, I will simply share the video below. You can also read the script on her blog.

In the rant Sherrie expressed that “by sharing student work online, schools can celebrate student success, promote learning, build school culture and invite parents, and community, to be a part of the learning process”. I fully agree. If used in a meaningful way, sharing online can be very powerful for a school community. It’s finding that balance of how much to share.

In the end I found myself on the disagree side. By providing openness and sharing in schools special guest, Dr. Verena Roberts explained that it is our opportunity to help students understand consent. Dean also stated that if we believe it is unfair to share is it not just as unfair that we are not equipping our students for a digital connected world? Once again this debate guided us to the place of understanding how critical it is for us as educators to develop critical thinking skills in our students through digital citizenship.

Should Cellphones Be Banned in the Classroom?

This is one debate that I entered strongly agreeing. I have had to deal with many issues in the office that have involved cellphones over the years. Videos taken of teachers while they are teaching and then posted to group chats mocking and making fun of them, texts that said hurtful things about other students, pictures taken of others when they didn’t approve, stolen phones, lost phones, the list goes on. There were days when cellphones were the constant in many issues I would deal with. Both teams did an excellent job of presenting their arguments which really challenged me to think and reflect on my opinion.

Jill and Tarina presented the agreeing side and their video focused on four main points:

  • Cellphones are distracting for students
  • School devices are safer for students to use
  • Cellphones increase negative behaviours
  • Cellphones are creating an addiction for students

The two points that stood out to me are that cellphones are distracting and creating an addiction. I agree that distractions have always existed and as Skylar said in the past students would spend time reading posters on the wall or looking a the bulletin boards. I believe that the type of distractions cellphones are creating are not just the “I am bored, what else can I do” type of moments but rather they are distractions driven by FOMO. That is powerful and causing all kinds of other issues in students. When their phone vibrates with a notification, they almost instantly need to check who it is and what it is about. Even if they are in the middle of something and engaged, that vibration is enough to pull them out. I get it, I do the same and often if I need to work on something without being distracted I leave it in another room. The video below that Jill and Tarina shared explains that the presence of phones might be triggering our minds to create a persistent sense of urgency.

I believe that urgency has also created our need for instant and immediate access to each other. Is that good? Is that bad? Does a parent need instant access to their child to answer a text message during class or is that something that could be addressed at lunch or after school? Does a student need to know what their friend in another school thinks of their snap they sent while trying to work on math? I’m not one to use the “back in the day” argument but yet I can’t hep but stop to think about the reasons people give for needing instant access. Other than a horrific emergency, why can’t a phone call or message wait? I have been an educator long enough that I know of a time before cellphones. Students received messages if needed through the office. Was that so wrong?

Skylar and Alyssa countered the argument with their reasons on why they believe cellphones should not be banned in the classroom. Their points included:

  • Cellphones are needed for medical and emergency uses
  • They can be used for educational purposes
  • Cellphones can be used to help students develop digital citizenship skills

Often the use of cellphones in classrooms comes from a bring your own device (BYOD) belief. Teachers want to be using technology and there are never enough school devices to go around. I understand that and believe in the use of technology. As a public education system, we don’t have enough devices for teachers to use them in a way that always enhances learning. Rather than making BYOD seem like a great privilege for students we should be seeing budgets increased in order to supply our schools with the technology we need. We may disagree with students having cellphones in a classroom but when it comes down to it, we need them to have cellphones in order to access technology we can’t provide them. Teachers aren’t asking students to bring a cellphone so that they can use it as a phone, but rather use it for it ‘s capabilities to act like a computer. I found that reading the article BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century that Alec shared with us highlighted concerns that I had not thought of before.

Skylar and Alyssa provided a strong argument about the definition of the word ban. I wrote about how I don’t agree with banning in my previous post so why was I ok with the thought of banning cellphones? I think it was exactly what they said, it eliminates a problem but doesn’t solve it. Their slogan – don’t make a ban have a plan was very effective. Again expressing the importance of teachers teaching digital citizenship and how to use the device effectively. I like the stoplight visual they shared and can see how it could effectively be used in a classroom.

So once again a debate challenged my thoughts and opinions. While my final vote was disagree, I believe I fall somewhere in the middle. As the semester goes on I am finding the middle to be a place I am ending up in often!

Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

It was our turn. This topic was one that my partner Christina and I were looking forward to debating! I have held debates with middle years students but this was the first time that I personally have taken part. I thoroughly enjoyed the process from researching and reading many articles, to creating our video, and presenting to the class. My take aways from the technical side of things:

  1. WeVideo – we used it to create our video and again I am so impressed. We were able to use the group feature which allowed us to collaborate and create the video together. The only downfall is that you both cannot be in the video at the same time. I see many uses for this in a classroom with students.
  2. Don’t meet deadlines early – posting our articles to the document a few hours before the debate allowed our opponents Dean and Amy to look over what we shared and use the points against us. Great job!
  3. The support – while this was a new format for me, Christina and I were a great team and were ready to take on Dean and Amy. I also was so impressed with the support from all of our classmates. I know it has been said many times about how amazing this community is, but it is so true. Everyone’s support made the experience that much better!

Christina and I dove into the agree side and worked to present an extreme view. We had fun gathering photos from our “perfect fairy-tale” childhoods and decided that showing the evil villain that social media is was a great way to demonstrate this extreme view.

While the approach we took was light-hearted , the information we focused on was any but. We honestly could have made a 30 minute video with everything we read about, however it was important to highlight some of the biggest issues we felt supported our claim which included mental health, cyberbullying, and the safety risks. There is a lot of information out there about the negative side of social media. Adults who don’t use social media or don’t understand it are quick to latch on to the negativity and without knowing more will ban their children from ever using it. The word ban came up quite a bit in our debate. That is not something I believe in. I can’t think of a time that banning something achieved the results people were looking for. Nor was it in the topic we were debating.

Daina’s statement during the discussion was powerful – what do we consider as childhood? In my opinion that puts everything in perspective. Teens will use social media and they should. It is a part of life and there are many positives (which I will discuss later on). Children, not so much. But what age is too young? Social media platforms have guidelines for ages which is due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act also known as COPPA. Yet there are claims of many social media platforms utilizing persuasive design, specifically designing their apps for behavioral change by using motivation, ability, and triggers. When we have children under the age of 13 using social media we are setting them up to be impacted by the issues we discussed in our video.

I know part of my beliefs and opinion have been influenced by discussions with my sister. She is currently working in an ICE Unit in Northwest Territories. She and I have had many, many discussions about this topic. I realize that she sees the worst of society and works tirelessly for protecting children and I am so grateful that she and so many others take on this position. But, it’s important to know that the exploitation of the past which was the unknown creepy predator lurking on the internet is not the only exploitation that exists. In fact, one of the most common forms is self/peer exploitation which includes the sharing of nude photos amongst peer groups. She does not believe in banning social media rather the message she shares with me and with her community is education and awareness.

That fits in perfectly with Christina and I said in our video and our statements. I believe parents and teachers hold a great amount of responsibility. Teens spend time learning in a classroom about how to drive and car and then actually drive it with an adult beside them guiding, suggesting, and teaching. We need to do the same thing with social media. It shouldn’t be as simple as, the “be safe on the internet talk” and then sign up for an account. Adults need to be there guiding, suggesting, and teaching as things come up. Should all of that responsibility fall on teachers? I don’t think so. We definitely need to incorporate digital citizenship into our subjects regardless if it appears in curricula or not. Social media is a part of our students’ lives. We need to help prepare them for what they will face and experience.

Dean and Amy gave a compelling argument for the disagree side. I enjoyed their news broadcast and found the interviews with classmates were a great touch!

Their argument for why social media is not ruining childhood included the points that it allows users to build connections with others, it can be used for creativity, and gives them a platform to promote their voices. I agree with everything they said. Social media does provide those things. It has broadened our world and provides us access to people and places we might not have otherwise been able to reach. I remember the first time one of my tweets was liked by the other of the book I had tweeted about. I thought it was super cool that she acknowledged what I had to say.

The article that Dean and Amy shared, 10 Reasons Why We Should Start Showing Middle Schoolers How to use Social Media by Jennifer Casa-Todd disputes many of the claims we made. Her message is loud and clear, we need to teach students how to use social media. The points she makes are valid and the importance of teaching students about social media is one I agree with. If all of the adults in a child’s life taught them about social media and the points Casa-Todd makes in her article maybe we wouldn’t be faced with some of the negative points Christina and I brought up. Amanda recently was able to interview Jennifer Casa-Todd for her podcast. Check it out as they discuss some great points. See Amanda’s blog for more information and check out her podcast here.

Thanks again to Christina for being a wonderful partner and to Dean and Amy for being tough opponents! I enjoyed examining this topic through the debate process and all the points that were made provided me with thoughts to reflect on.

So where do I end on this topic? I am happy to say strongly in the middle. To quote Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “With great power there must also come great responsibility”. Social media provides us with an audience. What can be done with that audience has the potential to be powerful or the potential to be harmful. We as adults need to be aware and educate our youth so that the outcome is a positive one.

Schools Should Not Focus on Things That Can Be Easily Googled

In the 80s my parents bought a World Book Encyclopedia set from a door to door salesman.

I remember those books vividly. Every year, a yearbook would arrive that had updates on discoveries and changes that had happened in the world that year. The best part was that I got to go through the set and put the sticker that came with the yearbook on the articles in the other volumes. A simple task, yet something I looked forward to for many years. It taught me how to search, how to locate words alphabetically, how to appreciate that the world was changing and that there was always new information. I was introduced to topics I might not have otherwise read about.

Did I learn and memorize some mundane facts? Yes.

But I also learned so much more. I am not going to give all the credit to a set of encyclopedias. That goes to my dad. His love of information and passion to question and find answers was shared early on with me. The encyclopedias were there to give me answers but my teacher, my dad, was there to instill the skills I needed to become a learner.

I felt this story from my past fits in well with the topic of our class discussion. What should we be teaching in school? Are facts enough? Do students need to memorize when they can easily look something up on google? Those are age old questions in education. Will we ever be able to agree on an answer, probably not. Every generation believes that schools should be teaching the “basics”. It’s just that with a changing world, those basics need to adapt. Is it enough to just teach students how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide? To be able to just decode words and only understand the mechanics of writing? Maybe there was a time when those skills alone were enough for students to be successful in society. In 2020, we need more.

I believe this topic comes down to Bloom’s Taxonomy. What is our goal in education? Should we be teaching concepts for students to only remember? For some things, yes. But, we cannot stay there. Teachers need to be providing students with learning opportunities that challenge them to use all the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Is that possible for every thing we do in all grades, no. In fact, the higher levels of the pyramid require a certain level of maturity. That doesn’t mean that we don’t try. Students need to be challenged to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.

In both the videos Curtis and Lisa and Daina and Jocelyn shared they spoke to the importance of how teachers are teaching. Curtis and Lisa identified that the 4Cs – creation, consumption, curation, and connection should be be the focus of learning and that can be achieved with technology through the use of the Loti framework. The use of this framework has teachers examine the balance between between instruction, assessment, and the use of technology to promote higher level thinking. It also promotes engaged student learning and authentic assessment practices in the classroom. While the framework is slightly different from Bloom’s Taxonomy, the message is still the same. Teachers need provide students with opportunities to develop higher level thinking.

Daina and Jocelyn stated that teachers need to move away from basic questions that don’t involve thinking. A great example of this is when a student is assigned a novel to read and then has questions to answer such as, where did the character go after he finished his supper? Not only does that not require any thinking, it can be answered without having read the book at all. Kailyn also spoke to this regarding the conflict some professors are facing as they worry their exams can allow for cheating. Her answer to this was perfect, then change your exam. I don’t feel that this situation is only present with remote teaching. Students have always been able to cheat. Teachers can change that with the types of questions they are asking.

In grade 7, students are always so excited to see that the math textbook for the first time has an answer key at the back. It was one of the first things I would show them. They were so sure that math was going to be easy for the year because they had all the answers. I would explain that having the answer was not what I would be looking for but rather their ability to explain, show, apply what they had learned about the math concepts.

Just having a final answer does not mean you have learned something. Google, answer keys, encyclopedias can’t do the thinking for us. Those tools are important (maybe not the 80s version of the World Book Encyclopedia) but they are tools. As Daina and Jocelyn stated, it is a tool not a teacher.

Technology is a Force for Equity in Society

I thought I knew where I stood on this topic heading into the debate this week. My opinion was based on past experiences but I quickly realized there was so much more to consider.

Presenting the agree side, Kalyn and Nataly explained that technology as provides people with greater access to information, allows us to personalize learning, and helps students with disabilities. The most powerful quote that I feel was presented on the agree side was, “technology makes things easier but for students with disabilities it makes things possible”. Assistive technology does eliminate barriers for students, whether it be physical or learning disabilities.

I stated that I have seen middle years students be able to do what their peers are doing with technology as the fear of others finding out what they cannot do is eliminated. I believe this. Technology can level the playing field. However, it depends on how it is implemented. My school division has a process where applications can be made for assistive technology when a student is identified as having a need. For the most part it is a relatively smooth process and not often denied. I fully agree and have seen how this can do the opposite. It can create a divide as no one wants to be different. If one student is the only one using a computer then it definitely draws attention to them, exactly opposite of what the intentions were.

I am not new to the idea of presenting something to an entire class in order to target needs of specific students. I taught a class how to use the many tools in Google Read&Write as one student in particular need to rely on it. Not only did it introduce everyone to the features but also erased the stigma of having to use something. The one student suddenly saw how classmates were just as excited to use the tool. What I wasn’t familiar with was the Universal Design for Learning. This is something I am going to learn more about.

The article EdTech and the Promise of Quality Education For All shares the belief of the Universal Design. Specifically it states “To make inclusive education a reality, however, students with disabilities must be considered in the design requirements of any new education technology”. This is so important. While there is a need to create technology to target specific needs, it is just as important that technology is designed for all students. “We see too many technologies that leave too many students behind—particularly students with disabilities, who could perhaps benefit most from technological innovation”.

Countering on the disagree side, Victoria and Jasmine presented the topics of the digital divide, techno-colonialism, and non-neutrality of technology. Their points really got me thinking. The digital divide is no longer just about access to devices but also access to connectivity and skills. I feel this has been put under a microscope with our remote teaching. While school divisions handed out devices that did not solve all of the problems. To hear that families have had to drive to locations to pick up a WiFi connection so students could complete their work while others can access what they need from the comfort of their couch demonstrates the lack of equity. There are also many families that have not been able to take part because they don’t have a device, don’t have the internet, or don’t have the skills to use the devices. That is not equity.

While the remaining months of this school year have been supplemental learning, what will we do if we need to continue remote learning in the fall? Learning can no longer be optional but how will the inequities be addressed? Is this something that the education sector alone can deal with?

I end the second debate agreeing with points on both sides. I don’t know that I can say I fully agree or disagree. I am enjoying this process as these debates and topics are challenging me to think about my own experiences and opinions.

Does Technology in the Classroom Enhance Learning?

This week brought our first Great Ed. Tech Debate with Amanda and Nancy taking on the agree side and Matt and Trevor challenging them on the disagree side. Both teams did an excellent job of arguing their side and I found myself agreeing with points from both teams throughout the entire debate.

Amanda and Nancy argued that technology enhances the 4Cs of 21st Century Skills. These include critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. They added in a 5th skill, connection. Their argument was validated in the examples of how our current remote learning situation is only possible through the connections made with technology. I fully agree with this point. Staying connected during this time is only possible with technology. Being able to communicate with students instantly through platforms like SeeSaw, Google Classroom, and Google Meet is the next best thing to being with them in person. Many teachers have commented that they are able to see a different side in some of their students through remote learning. Students that were shy or extremely quiet in a classroom have now been able to shine through the use of technology. Technology for connection is not new to the pandemic. I was in a grade eight classroom earlier this year and witnessed a group of students working on a project. They told me that one of their classmates was at home sick however, they did not want to miss out on the work period. From their bed at home, the student Facetimed so that they could still be a part of the group. Technology provided that student with the connection that was needed. The power of technology for connection is also incredibly demonstrated in the video Amanda and Nancy shared, The Born Friends.

When we say that technology enhances learning, the term engagement often accompanies that statement. In George Couros’ series, The Myths of Technology, he discusses the common myth that technology equals engagement. Just because we put a computer in front of our students engagement does not magically happen. Like the example Couros shares in his article, I have checked in on many students to see what they were working on. It is very common to find a tab open which is showing a YouTube video, or game which is not at all what the student needed to be doing. With the belief that technology enhances learning, is engagement the carrot we are looking for when we use it? I found this quote from Couros to provide an answer to that question.

With the world now literally at our fingertips, “engagement” should not be the highest bar we set for our students. If we can develop meaningful learning opportunities that empower our students to make a difference, our impact will go beyond their time they spent in our classrooms.

Looking at the other side of this debate, Matt and Trevor provided strong arguments for disagreeing. One point they made was about the amount of screen time students are experiencing between home and school life. How much screen time is too much? It was interesting to read the article The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids is Not What We Expected. The articles discusses how parents in affluent communities are pushing for their children to move towards “screen-free lifestyles”. One parent in the article speaks about the impact that screen time has on her boys’ behaviour. She explains that she would see anger in her son when the screen had to be turned off. So how does that transfer to our classrooms? When students are spending a considerable amount of time on technology at home are we adding to the concerns by providing more screen time at school? Many parents will admit that an iPad or iPhone at times becomes the babysitter at home. This type of use of technology is not transferring well into a school setting. I have seen primary students stop having meltdowns and enter a trance like state when given an iPad. They see the iPad as instant gratification rather than a tool for learning. In some situations based on how an Ipad is used at home, teachers have been unable to use it in the classroom.

The other point that Matt and Trevor made that really spoke to me was their claim that technology doesn’t mean good pedagogy. Technology at best only amplifies the pedagogical methods of educators. It can make good teachers better but it can make bad ones worse. While this is a bold statement to make, it is one that speaks truth. Knowledge of the SAMR model is key address this issue.

The issue I see with technology in the classroom is that many are still at the substitution level. How do we move on from this? While stakeholders say may say that technology enhances learning and money is spent on equipment is that enough? I don’t believe it is. As I said earlier, putting a computer in front of a student doesn’t cause engagement magically to appear. Well the same is for teachers. You can purchase all kinds of technology and fully equip a classroom but that does not mean modification and redefintion – the two highest levels in the SAMR model are going to occur. Can we continue to accept that some teachers are just not comfortable with using technology? Is that meeting the needs of our students and their needs for the future?

If we want to improve the use of technology in classrooms because we value what it can provide our learners then we need to improve teachers’ skills. The number one reason teachers have for not using technology is that they don’t know how to. Yet we have seen many PD opportunities fall by the wayside in the ever increasing tightening of budgets. So if we believe in the use of technology, where does the responsibility fall? Should school divisions be doing more to develop technology skills in their teachers? Should teachers take on their own learning and seek put PD opportunities? How do we move people forward in order to keep a better pace with the changes in technology?

So which side did I end up on at the end of the debate? Well, I don’t feel I can simply say that I agree or disagree with the statement. I don’t believe it’s one that can be answered with an either or response. It depends on how the technology is being used. We need to consider the purpose and what levels of the SAMR model are being reached. Only once those questions are answered can we truly say if technology is enhancing learning.

Groundhog Day

As of today, it has been 54 days since I was with colleagues and students in a school building. Many days I feel like I am living in a updated version of the Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day.

Source: Giphy

Wake up.

Check work phone for messages and emails.

Walk down the hallway to my home office.

Sit in front of the computer.

Repeat.

I miss the obvious, like everyone else, the students and colleagues. I miss the casual interactions with people as you walk down the hallway. I miss smiles and hugs and high fives. I have also realized I miss things I never thought I would – the drive to and from work, recess supervision, the busyness of a day.

This post isn’t meant to be all doom and gloom. There have been so many things to celebrate during the past 54 days. Collaboration, support, growth, stepping out of comfort zones, asking for help. While all of those things existed prior to the pandemic, they have been amplified as we were thrown into remote teaching. While I’m not sure that being thrown into the deep end of a pool is the best way to learn to swim, there is something to be said about just in time learning. While the tools were there, many were not used the way they are being used now.

I utilize a number of tools throughout the day for different reasons. To stay connected – Zoom and Google Meets. The first time I had ever used Zoom was last semester for EC&I 832 and I am so thankful for it. I will admit that the during the first few classes I felt a bit odd as we all stared at each other. But Zooming has become such a regular part of my day that all of the awkwardness has disappeared. I am thankful that this tool exists as seeing people’s faces is the next best thing to seeing them in person. Using Zoom for the first time did present some challenges for people but I love that we can see the humour in it. I think SNL did a great job of depicting this:

My school division quickly identified that they did not want us using Zoom with students and have identified Google Meets as the tool to use. I have used both and will say that I do prefer Zoom over Meets. Meets does not have the breakout rooms feature (in the way that Zoom does). The breakout rooms have been essential in our staff meetings with a staff of 50 people. Just like in class, the breakout rooms give everyone opportunity to speak in a smaller group. Google Meets has served the purpose of connecting with students and with the accessibility through their Google Accounts it has been relatively easy to access. While some students had used their Google Suite tools while in school, many had not. When this all began I supported teachers first in how to use this tool, but then also supported them with how to teach students to use it and how to teach parents to use it.

I joined a Google Meet the other day with a grade 7/8 class. I was so looking forward to connecting with them but was a bit disappointed. All of the students turned their cameras off. While they spoke and shared their ideas and questions, it still would have been nice to see their faces. I had to remind myself while seeing their faces is what I was needing, for many students video chats can be stressful. In this article, a grade seven student discusses how Zoom has been a trigger for her anxiety. It goes on to explain that when people are socially anxious they turn their attention inward. Video chatting mimics that self-focus. “In a real-time conversation, we don’t have access to that same mirror view”. I felt this article was useful in helping me understand what students and teachers are facing and dealing with during video chats.

While I am enjoying the opportunity to connect with people through video chats, I will admit that the days where there are multiple meetings can be exhausting. After experiencing a few of those days in a row I questioned why I was feeling so exhausted. Really, all I am doing is looking into a computer and talking, why is that tiring? I found it interesting to read the many articles that have come out recently about Zoom fatigue. I was relieved to read that it wasn’t just me and is a real thing. The article explains that the exhaustion can be a result of “our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting”.

I am not connecting with students as much as I would like as I don’t have my own classroom but I am doing my best to join Meets, checking into classroom Seesaw accounts and Google Classrooms. Aside from video chats, I am also staying connected with teachers through emails, texts, FaceTime and phone calls. Of course all of those have their own notification sounds so by the end of the day I am ready to unplug!

I have also been able to lead a few sessions with my staff on how to use some of the tools available to us. Many were interested in creating videos but overwhelmed with how to do it. My division subscribes to WeVideo which I played around with last semester. I was able to guide teachers with how to create screen recordings, recordings of themselves, and videos using stock footage. I was so happy to see a number of teachers jump in and create videos to share with their students. One of my favourite moments so far was receiving an email from a teacher (self proclaimed least techie person) to say that they had created multiple math videos and were able to share them on Seesaw. Had I provided the same PD on WeVideo back in September, there likely would have been a different outcome.

Just in time learning. It is powerful and I am excited to see where it takes us.