Author Archives: Melinda Demeter

Summary of Learning

Looking back, my journey started almost five years ago, in January of 2016. I started working as an EAL teacher in the fall of 2015, and even though I had completed the Education Program twice ( once in Europe and once in Canada), and I had the experience of learning foreign languages, I still had the urge to learn more in this field. So, I applied for the Masters Certificate Program in TESOL with the goal of becoming a better EAL teacher. It was a great experience but I had to write a LOT of papers. After completing the program, I was thinking of continuing my studies but it seemed that my only option was the Masters Program in Curriculum and Instruction, meaning more papers… When someone mentioned to me the Masters Certificate Program in Educational Technology, I immediately knew this was what I wanted, this was what I needed. Although the name of the program sounded scary because of the lack my experience and knowledge in this field, I pushed myself through the application process and after being accepted there was no turning back.

Was it easy? If you ask my children, they would probably say “Thank God, you’re done!” I cannot describe the guilt that I felt throughout the years for the many hours I had to miss out on. I hope that them seeing me pushing through these past five years and learning new things that even they can benefit from, will teach them to fight for their dreams and never give up. They did such a great job giving me strength to accomplish my goal.

Words cannot describe how thankful I am to my professor Dr. Alec Couros for being my GUIDE through my journey in the world of Educational Technology. The patience, understanding and support he provided truly helped me through this steep learning curve. Thank you Alec for believing in me and sharing your knowledge and expertise in such a unique way. What I find the most amazing is the connections you were able to build with your students and within your class. Instead of preaching about Educational Technology, you immersed us in it. I had the experience to not only learn, but try out so many amazing tools. I feel confident that I can incorporate ed. tech into my teaching in a purposeful way now. Being part of an amazing PLN also gives a great sense of belonging and support.

This semester was very unique since I had the privilege to work with Curtis and Dean on our project on Makerspaces and Coding. Thanks to them, I had the opportunity to meet and learn from Dr. Bryan Sanders, the Codebreaker Brian Aspinall and our amazing colleague, Megan Moore. During our project, the idea of creating a Minecraft world with EAL students came up. Since I had absolutely no experience with Minecraft Education Edition, I couldn’t even imagine how coding could become part of language learning. When Dean’s student, Nico demonstrated how things can come to life in Minecraft, I started seeing the potential in it. So, I asked Dean if he’d like to work on the Summary of Learning with me? He graciously offered to help me learn about Minecraft Education Edition and we used it to create our final project. Under the Summary of Learning Wakelet Collection you can take a peak at our EC&I 833 Island in Minecraft that has several huts, each hut representing a topic covered in class. We also included the information found on the boards in each hut, as well as links to our blog posts. Since Twitter played an important role in our learning journey, we added tweets from our team members as well. It was absolutely amazing to work on this project with Dean. He is a true mentor!

It is hard to say goodbye but I feel I learnt so much, I need some time to think things through and take everything that I learnt to the next level. I am looking forward to continue learning from all of you in the future.

I would like to say thank you with a song called “Rainbow” that I learnt recently. Learning how to play the piano was my childhood dream and one of Alec’s previous classes made that dream come true. I had to learn something new, and I picked the piano. This actually became part of our lives since both of my children and I are learning. Of course they are more advanced than me….

Thank you for being part of my amazing journey!

Melinda

Let’s ‘Make’ It Happen

By Dean Vendramin and Melinda Demeter 

There are couple of movements, which although not entirely new, deserve a push, poke, and a plug.  These movements are coding, and makerspaces being infused in the classroom.  Recently, in an Education Master’s class, we examined the learning theories, tools, and complexities of these movements.  We were listening to a podcast recently about making and coding in the classroom.  It went along the lines of this … ‘the mindset that we need to prepare students to climb that ladder and be able to win the race is no longer relevant in today’s world, the ladder has been replaced by a maze that students need to be able to navigate, pivot, and create their own path in’.  We believe that this reality is true and that it is education’s responsibility to provide students with learning opportunities to best prepare them for their future. Both coding and makerspaces provide these opportunities. 

Coding in the classroom usually gets designated to Computer Science classes and maybe a math class.  However, coding should not be just relegated to a couple of specific classes.  Also, coding isn’t just a 0s and 1s thing or advanced coding language, block coding makes the entry point easier and one can even do coding ‘unplugged’ where one can use paper cutouts to create computational learning opportunities.  Exposing and engaging students with computational thinking opportunities provides them with skills to solve wicked problems.  The goal isn’t to have all students become computer scientists but to allow students to construct their learning and grow a valuable growth mindset skill set.  

As both Dr. Bryan Sanders and the Codebreaker Brian Aspinall highlighted during our interviews (http://shorturl.at/makecode ), coding has a lot to offer when it comes to teaching various subject matters, for example Language Arts. Hour of Code (https://hourofcode.com ) offers a variety of examples that can be easily implemented into teaching. Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/ ) is an amazing tool for story writing as well as Minecraft Education where the stories can come to life. Saskcode (https://www.saskcode.ca ) offers different ideas and lesson plans on coding as well as PD sessions. Using the Bee Bot, Ozobot, Arduino, etc. are fun and engaging ways to take learning to the next level. Having coding infused into our classrooms also helps reaching the various needs of our students. One might even call them a type of Assistive Technology.  

If you are asking yourself if implementing makerspaces is truly worth the trouble, you need to listen to Jennifer Gonzales’ podcast (https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/makerspace/ ) where John Spencer not only describes the importance of constructionism and connectivism makerspaces offer but the depth they give to the process of learning and teaching by being fully immersed in the beauty of creating.  In the above mentioned podcast, John Spencer also provides a few ideas on creating our own makerspaces and incorporating them into teaching various subject matters to help all our students play an active role in their own learning. 

Hope this provides some insights and resources that one can use to start or continue their coding and makerspaces journey.  For more resources and tips check out http://shorturl.at/makecodewakelet .  You don’t have to be an expert or have all the bells and whistles to start being a part of this journey.  There are many entry points and many people willing to offer their time, talent, and treasures.  So next time you are thinking of having your classroom experience level up, make it happen. As always you can reach out to the two of us on Twitter @vendi55 and @Melinda74108321 

Assistive Technology in my world

What is assistive technology? you might ask. It was a fairly new term to me too until I had a chance to learn more about it from my wonderful classmates Megan, Jenny, Leigh and Kalyn.

According to the Assistive Technology Industry Association website, Assistive Technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software or product system that is used to help people who have difficulty speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, etc. to improve their functional capabilities. Assistive Technology Devices can be divided into three groups, such as low-, medium-, or high tech. 


Low technological devices are tools with no electronic parts or batteries, such as graphic organizer, visual schedule, pencil grip, using manipulatives or even a highlighter.  I actually have even been using many of these accommodations without even knowing that they would be classified as assistive technology. 

    
Medium technological devices are between high and low tech’ devices, they are simple to use, may be battery operated and use simple electronics. Medium technological devices include audiobooks, voice amplifiers, which have been very popular during a pandemic, adapted seating, calculators or word prediction software.


High technological devices are electronic, computerized and sophisticated. They are also more complicated to learn and operate, but improve efficiency, speed and accessibility. These items can include computers, tablets or iPads, electric wheelchairs, smart boards and speech recognition software. 

Working with English as an Additional Language (EAL) students for the past five years, I mostly encountered the term “adaptive dimension”. While reading and reflecting, I realized that I was using certain forms of assistive technology without being aware of it. Since EAL students do not possess an extensive vocabulary, they require many specific opportunities to build their vocabulary knowledge base, including activities to understand both the literal and implied meanings of words and to develop the ability to use vocabulary in context. Just as Jamie Martin in the Five Myths about Assistive Tech Video, The Adaptive Dimension for Saskatchewan K-12 Students also points out that “adaptations should not be viewed as giving students preferential treatment or an advantage over their peers. It is important for teachers to keep in mind that adaptations are provided to students in order to give them equal opportunities to achieve curricular outcomes.” Since “differentiated instruction is effective instruction that is responsive to the diverse learning needs and preferences of individual learners” (Hume, 2008, p. 1), its most significant effect is that it helps students become more confident, independent and successful learners who work more quickly and accurately by setting goals and achieving them.

https://www.nesd.ca/Programs/studentsupportservices/Student%20Support%20Services%20Handbooks/The%20Adaptive%20Dimension%20for%20Saskatchewan%20K-12%20Students%20-%202017.pdf

Interestingly, after examining both, I noticed that the four variables of the Adaptive Dimension are very similar to the SETT model with the main focus on getting to know your students.

http://mrsdichiarasatblog.blogspot.com/2017/09/back-to-at-basics-sett-framework.html

Our newcomer students arrive to the schools with an initial assessment administered at the Newcomer Welcome Centre, which is very helpful when starting to work with a new student. I see this as the first and most important document that helps me group my students and plan for them in order to meet their needs as well as support the classroom teachers to adapt their instruction. Building on students’ prior knowledge, learning profiles, perspectives, preferences and linguistic and cultural backgrounds are also crucial. Beside placing the students in the most fitting group to help them feel safe, I also adjust and change my instruction according to ongoing assessment. Not giving my students an actual mark, but a CFR (Common Framework of Reference) English Proficiency Level, is a lot more stress free from a child’s perspective. Adapting the assessment is also crucial. My students particularly like Kahoot and Goformative. I prefer to let my students work at their own pace with no focus on the length of time allowed to complete the assessment to avoid stress and competition. I also use various programs, such as the Reading A-Z Program, and Newsela, offering a wide variety of books, articles and texts. Both of these resources allow students to adjust the reading level as well as have access to text-to-speech to help them with listening and speaking skills. Knowing that “selecting the appropriate resources for students is crucial for ensuring optimal progress and success”(Routman, 2014), it is important for students to have opportunities to select resources that are engaging and reflect their interests and needs.

https://education.minecraft.net/lessons/story-time-lesson-1-of-3

Spending a significant amount of time with my classmates Curtis and Dean this semester learning about coding and maker spaces, I do see the potential in these resources to be a unique addition to learning a new language. Using Bee Bot, Ozobot, Scratch or even Minecraft would be an engaging and fun way to teach a foreign language. After my classmates Trevor, Dalton and Matt demonstrated the benefits of Knowledgehook, I also see the positive effect of this math program that can help students be successful. It not only offers little tutorials by explaining certain concepts, but the students can listen to them as many times as needed. When exploring Open Educational Resources (OERs), I had the opportunity to learn more about Khan Academy. I liked this resource from an EAL perspective for providing short lessons using visuals as well as having access to caption and translation.

My biggest concerns when it comes to both the SETT model and the Adaptive Dimension are access to a positive learning environment, since in many schools there is shortage of space. But the list of limitations gets bigger, since access to technology, wifi, lack of training for educators and adequate funding are all challenges we face on a daily basis.

Formative

I enjoyed having the opportunity to explore various formative assessment tools as part of Matt, Dalton, and Trevor‘s presentation. Since I have used Kahoot before (and I still love it), this week I decided to learn more about formative. Common sense education compares Kahoot and Formative highlighting the pros and cons of these two highly engaging tools. So, I decided to try it out and see how it could be incorporated in teaching EAL students. I would not consider myself tech savvy, but setting up my account on formative was quite smooth. Although there is the option to have participants access the assignments as guests, I decided to create various groups adding my students one-by-one. This process can be a little time consuming, but in order to have a clear picture of student growth, it’s worth it. I actually found this process stress free since there are a number of great tutorials online that can be helpful for anyone just starting using formative.

Although there are a number of ready-to-use assessments in the formative bank, I decided to create my own to match the lesson I taught on “Animal Idioms”. The students read a book that introduced eight animal idioms, their meaning as well as correct use in context. After the students working on various activities related to the idioms, they had a chance to complete the assessment I created in formative. My goal was to check if my students had a good understanding of the covered animal idioms or more practice is needed.

Even though I did not use the paid version, I found formative a very effective tool since it provides multi-modal questions. I particularly liked the fact that I was able to add content too. By having the opportunity to add pictures, video, and white board as well as various types of questions, such as essay, short answer, true/false, multiple choice and opportunities for students to show their work, formative gives a quite complex picture of student understanding. I think this is a student friendly assessment tool with a focus on student success. Beside the fun and interactive side of formative, teachers can also view their students perform and provide feedback as they go. Just checking in with students and letting them know that they are on the right track, can be very helpful.

Beside the interactive and engaging side of formative, I also like the fact that it gives a clear overview of student understanding. I particularly appreciate the fact that I can see my students’ answers on the same question at the same time.

As you can see, having a Covid19 case in our school when trying out formative did not help. I did manage to try it out with two participants and my students enjoyed it. I certainly see myself using formative in the future. I am very thankful for my EC&I 833 peers for sharing such an amazing tool. I am very much looking forward to experimenting with it.

If you’d like to check out my very first formative assessment on “Animal Idioms”, please follow the “join instructions”. Feel free to complete the activities and share your feedback. I would love to hear from you!

Thank you! 🙂

evolution of education

“Many educators are doing Education 1.0 and talking about Education 2.0, when they should be planning and implementing Education 3.0” – Jackie Gerstein

Education 1.0 is classified by an essentialist, instructivist, pedagogical teaching model based on the 3Rs. Students receive the information by listening to the teacher, respond by taking notes and study, and regurgitate by taking the same assessment.

The similarity between Education 1.0 and Web 1.0 is that the content knowledge is provided in one-way. Teachers play the role of the primary gatekeepers of information and the students are dependent on the information provided by them.

The major cons of this teacher centred model is that there is no or little regard to student interest, that can result in lack of engagement. Students are passive receivers of information and knowledge presented to them. There is no room for differentiation, nor adaptation and all students are evaluated with the help of standardized testing based on a single performance. The teacher-oriented model requires obedience from the students with the teacher having the power.

The issue is that just by incorporating technology, Education 1.0 does not become Education 2.0, nor Education 3.0. Giving students the opportunity to use 21st century technology to access information via ebooks or web sites, taking notes from a video lecture or using technology for drill and grill does not help them develop 21st century skills, such as interacting, commenting, and sharing.

Education 2.0 is classified as an andragogical, constructivist approach to teaching and learning based on the 3Cs: communicating, contributing and collaborating. The similarity between Education 2.0 and Web 2.0 is that both permit interactivity between the teacher and student (the content and users), as well as the student to student, student to content (users themselves) through commenting, remixing and sharing via social networks. Education 2.0 has a humanistic element considering teacher-student and student-student relationships as part of the learning process. The teacher still plays the role of the facilitator of learning and the one who develops learning activities. Some of the progressive steps of Education 2.0 are the project-based learning with a focus on real world problems, inquiry-based learning, cooperative-, and global learning projects with the use of Skype in the classroom, blogs and collaborative digital tools.

Education 3.0 has a heutagogical, connectivist approach to teaching and learning based on 3Cs: connectors, creators, and constructivists.

The similarities between Web 3.0 and Education 3.0 are that Web 3.0 offers richer, more relevant, interactive networked content and Education 3.0 is based on social networking, self-determined learning where learning is based on students’ interest. Education 3.0, by recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique and personalized, meets the learners’ needs. The students are highly autonomous with the educator being the guide on the side who steers students in more productive directions through modelling, sharing and coaching. Although Education 3.0 is often described as a teaching and learning approach for adult learners, with the abundance of open educational resources (OER), younger learners are given the opportunity to engage in self-driven learning as well.

But what is the reason for many educators to do Education 1.0, and talk about Education 2.0, instead of planning and implementing Eduation 3.0?

Looking at the many excuses of a fixed mindset, I do feel guilty because, even though I am trying to move forward, I do think that some of these are relevant issues we, educators are facing. I grew up in Education 1.0 and I will do everything in my power to avoid it. It was everything that made me dread going to school. Thanks to the project I am working on with my classmates, Curtis and Dean on maker spaces and coding, I started seeing ways of taking my classroom to the next level by providing meaningful context to my students. This day, the human element of the Education 2.0 is the most important part of my classroom. Working with EAL students, having strong, trusting relationships with my students and their families is my main focus. I feel I am taking baby steps towards Education 3.0 by focusing on meeting my learners’ needs and providing an opportunity for interest-based learning. I am very fortunate not having to follow a curriculum and not having to mark my students’ work. This really gives me the opportunity to feel like a guide on the side who models and shares strategies. I am reminding myself each and every day to look for opportunities for small changes in teaching and always keep in mind to see “What is in the best interest of the learner”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpdN9NyBEXc

Although moving from Education 1.0 towards Education 3.0 is far from being easy, especially during the pandemic, it is important to stay connected and keep moving just like the determined karate kids do during the concrete training!

Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

Crisis Learning, Distance Learning

Thanks to the Educational Technology classes I have been taking as part of my Masters’ Certificate Program, I feel quite fortunate when it comes to being familiar with effective tools that I can implement when teaching both in-person or online. Although I am familiar with and I had a chance to use Flipgrid, WeVideo, Adobe Spark, Google Slides, Screencastify, Podcasting, etc. I cannot say that it was on a regular basis. Since I see my students for 30-40 minute time slots and not having my own set of devices, I often decided to teach without incorporating a whole lot of technology. In the past, I mostly assigned reading-, comprehension-, and vocabulary building assignments through Raz-Kids for the students to work on them at home or while being in their homeroom.

https://media.giphy.com/media/MCAFTO4btHOaiNRO1k/giphy.gif

During the “crisis schooling” it was Raz-Kids that served as the basis of my teaching. It was certainly a stressful time and looking back, it seems it took forever to get into contact with my students. At the very beginning of the supplemental learning, I was providing support to the classroom teachers to avoid adding extra stress to the parents’ lives. Not seeing my students, not being able to help them and their families, and knowing about the heart breaking situations in my students’ home lives including financial difficulties as well as the digital divide they were facing definitely added to the stress level. We were mainly focusing on our students’ and their families well being by being in touch with them through phone calls, delivering groceries, devices and printed packages. It took quite a long time, until all families received a device. During this uncertain time the staff had a chance to prepare for online education. I am thankful for having all the PD opportunities to learn how to use Microsoft Teams, since the use of Zoom was out of the question after “zoombombing” started to happen. For a while I was questioning, why we do not learn how to use Zoom safely, instead of just starting over with something brand new in such a stressful time? But I decided to save my energy and just go with the flow.

I did enjoy learning about Microsoft Teams and Seesaw. I actually ended up using both towards the end of the supplemental learning with my EAL students. But just like my classmate, Shelby described, the turnout was not that great, which lead to the feeling of unfulfillment and frustration. So much planning went into setting up and posting the assignments and there were barely students participating. I don’t blame my students though. I am sure they had so much going on in their lives. I am just like them, an immigrant who lives in Canada, and not having family and a strong support system, definitely made this time lonelier and harder to deal with.

So, I decided to take one day at a time and got through the emergency remote teaching. I am so happy to be back in the classroom and spend time with my students. School this year is certainly very different and everything requires so much more attention. As Kareem Farah describes in The Modern Classroom Podcast, the beauty of teaching is that we get another shot. I feel I get another shot to do things better. I am using one of my 40 minute prep times every week to book devices for the following week to give my students the opportunity to learn how to log into Microsoft Teams or Seesaw, how to access and complete their assignments. To be honest, I still have students whose passwords are not working, and that causes a whole lot of frustration. Since I am supporting over 90 students, I decided to focus on my older grades first, the grade 6, 7, and 8 students. At this point, I am preparing my students for online learning by walking them through the assignments posted in Microsoft Teams to make sure they know how to participate in case our school needs to shut down for a period of time. This is a rocky road, but I am figuring things out slowly. As a result of me not having access to News-o-matics, since I am not a classroom teacher, I created a Newsela account. It is a wonderful resource that provides levelled articles with the opportunity to listen to the stories as well. In order to keep my students engaged, I am trying to find articles that are related to their interests and cultures. I also use Kahoot since that is a fun way to review grammatical concepts. After my higher grade students have a good understanding and become confident and independent users of these few tools and resources, I am going to focus on technology use with my students between grades 1-5 using Seesaw. In the meantime, I would like to spend some time making instructional videos that I could post either in Microsoft Teams or Seesaw. In case we have to switch to online learning, this would give me the opportunity to teach through a combination of asynchronous-, and synchronous means. When listening to Kareem Farah’s podcast regarding the use of both, reminded me of the flipped classroom model. In case of a school shut down, my students could listen to my recordings to become familiar with a new concept and the Microsoft Teams meeting would give us a chance to bring in the elements of synchronous learning by having discussions, group work, etc. My classmate, Shelby mentioned that having recordings of her lessons are very helpful in case her students are missing school due to illness. In case of online learning, having access to asynchronous means can be very helpful, since often times the internet is not strong enough, or there aren’t enough devices in the household. Another benefit of asynchronous learning is that it gives the students a chance to listen to the lesson as many times as needed. By this, learning becomes meaningful, since it gives students the opportunity to self-paced learning. Having said that, as both of my classmates, Amanda and Shelby pointed out, designing and creating quality lessons for asynchronous sessions is incredibly time consuming. Teachers also need to be familiar using various tools to be able to create these recordings.

Looking back at 2020, I certainly have learnt a lot. I will never teach the same way I used to. Am I where I’d like to be? Not even close, but I learnt to take one step at a time and try to narrow things down. Certainly there are a lot of tools I would like to learn how to use, especially Pixton comics and PearDeck, but I also started to explore the world of Minecraft. I am very excited to learn more, with the help of my classmates, Dean and Curtis about ways to teach English as an Additional language through the world of Minecraft. Working with Dean and Curtis on our project on maker space and coding opened up a whole new world to me. I find it fascinating to experiment with teaching English as an Additional language with the help of coding and tinkering. Bee Bot would be just one example, that could serve as an engaging tool for my students. Having said that, I try to avoid multitasking and remind myself to focus on a few tools at a time since I often get overwhelmed with the abundance of tools and resources. I often think, if I feel this way, maybe my students and their families are having similar experiences, so I like to keep things simple. For now, I am taking one step at a time while being thankful for the amazing support system I am surrounded with and the power of collaboration and connectedness I am enjoying each and every day.

https://media.giphy.com/media/osjgQPWRx3cac/giphy.gif

Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions?

Personally, I love many things the Internet offers. When I talk about the Internet, I refer to the surface web, not the deep dark web. I consider myself a very naive Internet user, who just found out about the different layers of the Internet a couple of weeks ago. I had no idea about the scary, dangerous parts it has. I like to use the Internet since it helps me learn and expand my knowledge as an individual, as a mom and a teacher.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/22/what-is-the-internet-13-key-questions-answered#img-2

Having said that, I also noticed that the Internet adds a lot of stress to my life. I would like to start with my life as a mom. Many of you might judge my parenting skills after this blog post, but I often notice, that I am not strong enough when it comes to setting limits to my children’s screen time. If I am busy doing house work, school work, that we often have to continue during our “free evenings”, taking university classes or doing homework, my children keep themselves entertained by playing video games or being on their phones. The guilt that my kids being on the Internet is giving me as a parent is indescribable. It often makes me mad as well since it is so strong holding my children’s interest and attention, that often times they don’t hear me or they have no free hands helping me, since these big smartphones do not fit into our pockets any more.

As a teacher, I see both the positive and negative side of the Internet. Being a non-native speaker who teaches EAL, having access to the Internet gives me a sense of calm and relief, since it is there to help me communicate with my students through a translating app, offers pictures to help my students understand words and concepts when we are stuck, as well as it provides a huge amount of materials and tools to make learning and teaching more engaging. On the other hand, I think it can be a distraction for our students especially when looking for information when writing a paper or working on a project. As the video, “Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking” suggested, having multiple tabs open makes it very easy to get side tracked. Staying on task requires a lot of self-control that often times even adults struggle with. When working on the Internet, with the constant notifications, it is literally impossible to focus on one task.

Before COVID 19, I viewed the Internet as a nice addition that we can use to make our learning and teaching more engaging and rich. During the Supplemental Learning schools were offering, it became the tool that caused the most frustration and stress in our household. Don’t get me wrong, I love to learn, be up to date, and use wonderful tools but the many-many hours of shoving information into our brains about how to use Seesaw, TEAMS, OneNote, and the list is endless, I felt that everything was coming so fast at me that I couldn’t really digest it. I need time to learn how to use and implement these tools purposefully. As my classmate Catherine said, I often feel like my head is spinning and having access to the Internet is taking a toll on my mental health.

Reflecting on multitasking, the main cause for me having multiple tabs open is that when having an endless to-do list, this gives me the feeling that I can achieve more in the same amount of time. My brain is always in a million places, thinking about the various needs of my students, my children and myself. And if I think about the Internet being a productivity tool or an endless series of distraction, I feel it definitely takes away from our time to build meaningful relationships. When I cannot have a quite meal with my children, or a good night sleep because of an email I receive on a Sunday evening, I start doubting the benefits of the Internet. At this point, I am very much looking forward to a COVID19 free time, to be able to immerse myself at my own pace into exploring and implementing the best tools the Internet offers in order to feel truly productive, since as Catherine said “Productivity tools are only helpful if the user has a plan to incorporate the tools in their daily routines”. And for now, I am soaking in Nancy‘s advice and taking one step at a time towards becoming a Productivity Ninja.

https://thinkproductive.co.uk/action-for-happiness-the-productivity-ninja/

AV technology in the classroom

According to The importance of audio visual technology in education “A wide selection of AV tools make teaching and learning a rich and enjoyable experience, inspire learners with creative and innovative multimedia activities and will also save time in lesson preparation”.

After my classmates’, Tammy, Tarina, Lisa, and Caleigh‘s, presentation on AV technology, I decided to reflect on the effect of AV tools on my childhood and teaching career.

To be honest, I cannot imagine my life without AV tools. In my childhood, I experienced what is like to live in darkness. During communism we spent many many hours in darkness due to power outage and the highlight of those years were playing board games by candle light. We had two hours of T.V. program every evening and a little bit more on Saturdays and Sundays. Unfortunately I cannot relate with my classmates regarding the Sesame Street. I grew up watching Tom & Jerry, Popeye, and Charlie Chaplin. I truly enjoyed them. We also had a Natural Geographic show and of course the celebration of our good old communist leader. Looking back makes me sad. At that time it felt normal, since I didn’t know what we were missing out on but today I feel it was terribly unfair. What makes me even more sad that there are still people who live in darkness, just like we did.

Being an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher, I actually think AV tools give a different meaning to teaching. Thanks to my classmate, Curtis who introduced the wonderful Microsoft Translator app to me, I can have a conversation even with my newcomer students who do not know one single word in English. With my beginner learners, I am heavily relying on various language learning programs, such as starfall.com, Reading A-Z, flocabulary.com, and vocabulary.com. Often times I feel that having access to the Internet can be a life saver. When I am trying to teach students various vocabulary words, such as “high chair”, “crib” or “playpen”, having the opportunity to pull out my phone and show them pictures makes teaching and learning a lot more accessible.

AV tools, such as Newsela, and Youtube videos also play a big role in my everyday life as a teacher. I particularly like Newsela, since it gives me the possibility to meet my students’ needs since it offers a wide variety of articles at different reading levels. I also find the rich content Youtube is offering very helpful. I like to incorporate videos, TED talks, and podcasts since they are great tools to improve my students’ listening skills as well. The rich content the various Open Educational resources offer, such as the Khan Academy, are great ways to teach flipped lessons, or provide students with the opportunity to study at their own pace with providing translation in several foreign languages. And talking about foreign languages, we cannot forget about the assistive technology that helps meet the needs of a wide variety of students.

Looking back at the four courses I took as part of my Masters Certificate Program in Educational Technology, I had the opportunity to experience the benefits of using AV tools to showcase my learning. Documenting my piano learning journey in the form of a podcast, creating a website and the summaries of learning are all examples of creative multimedia activities that took my learning to a higher level. I had the opportunity to incorporate some of my podcasts into teaching my students the author’s purpose. I played them three parts of my podcast and they had to identify if it was informative, entertaining or persuasive. The reason I decided to use my own podcast with my students was that I speak fairly slowly and I knew that was important for my English language learners. I also added a script to make it easier to understand. This way the activity not only focused on identifying the author’s purpose, but on developing listening and reading skills at the same time. While reflecting and writing about this activity, I started thinking, why I never asked my students to create their own informative, persuasive, and/or entertaining recording with a topic of their choice? I guess this is where the idea of “constructionism” comes in. Reflecting on our teaching is truly important. I just realized I missed out on a great opportunity that I would definitely incorporate in the future.

As a mom, I love watching my children’s recordings where they explain what they learnt. I think this is a wonderful way for students to explain their way of thinking as well as reflect on their learning. It is also a safe environment, where my English learners and the shy students do not have to fear about being judged and in case of a mistake, or a “bug”, there’s always the RETAKE button or the chance to “de-bug”.

There is one thing I do not agree with though from the quote, that lesson preparation with AV tools takes less time. Looking for the right materials, discovering and exploring the various open educational resources, creating games, collaborating with other professionals, dealing with lack of devices etc. can be very time consuming and stressful especially if the respective teacher is not comfortable using technology. I agree that a great teacher can teach a great lesson with-, or without AV tools. I also think that AV tools can truly be helpful when it comes to teaching EAL students. The opportunity to fly to the home country with the help of Google Earth is just one example of the many powerful AV tools.

https://www.google.com/earth/

Ironing out the “bugs”…

Piaget’s constructivism and Seymour Papert’s constructionism sparked my curiosity towards learning more about coding. I have been hearing this term for a while, but I never really knew what it meant. The word itself reminded me of my boring computer programming classes back in high school where I had no idea what was happening. Probably that was the main reason that I never really had any interest in doing coding until I tried out the Logo Emulator. As soon as I opened up the Logo Workbook, I was excited to try programming the Turtle. But when my square didn’t really look like a square, I realized that I ran into a “bug”.

It was a little embarrassing to see that I failed, but giving up was just not an option. Reading the workbook carefully did help and I really enjoyed the various activities. I noticed a shift in my way of thinking, that failing was not that bad after all, since it helped me stop and reflect on the “bug”. When I got to more complex shapes, I decided to break the commands down into smaller chunks. This way if I made a wrong turn with Turtle, I could fix it immediately instead of having to redo everything. I was able to see how coding requires constant problem solving and critical thinking while figuring out the right degree and direction of making Turtle turn.

I was blown away when I actually created these images. It took several tries, “debugging” but at the end the feeling of accomplishment was amazing. I was learning by doing, by constantly analyzing, and synthesizing the information.

When I realized how interesting coding was, I wanted my 9-year-old son to experience it and as I was scrolling down on my Facebook page, an ad came up WhiteHatJr online coding classes offering a free trial. I signed my son up immediately thinking that this might be a great opportunity for me to see other examples of coding while he gets to try it. It was an hour-long one-on-one session with a teacher from Mumbai. Within that one hour, we went through 8 different activities and both my son and I had a great time. It was interesting to watch my son play while using higher level thinking, problem solving, computational thinking mixed with a great deal of determination and perseverance when he ran into some problems.

My son only counted the rocks, but never realized the little person would have to jump from rock to rock. As a result, he was only able to get to the middle and then got stuck.

At the end of the hour-long session I was amazed how much one can learn through coding. As an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher, I was examining how it could be beneficial for my students. Both the LOGO and the activities my son participated in focused on teaching directions, degrees, and angles, counting and using various colours. Since these little games all have a story behind them, students can improve their language skills by reflecting on the game or retelling what the task was. I think it would be interesting to experiment with digital stories as well where students can combine various elements, such as text, images, and audio. This would be a very effective tool especially for language learners since it helps them put aside their fear of being judged. I would like to spend more time experimenting with Scratch since I think that would give more opportunities for my students to improve their English language fluency while creating digital stories.

But my curiosity never stopped and I borrowed a Bee-Bot to see what would it offer to my students? Although it is mostly recommended for younger learners, I can certainly see ways to adapt it and use it with my older students as well. My newcomer students who do not have experience using any kind of technology and have very limited vocabulary in English, this would be an amazing tool to learn in a fun way, to learn by doing.

http://brianaspinall.com/10-reasons-kids-should-learn-to-code/

Today I am convinced that coding is a very effective tool that, as Brian Aspinall says “allows differentiated instruction and personal learning environments”. It offers a reform in education by focusing on hands-on learning while guiding students to become thinkers instead of regurgitating information since “You never want to get on a plane where the pilot learned to fly from worksheets.”

Thank you for reading my blog 🙂

Me as a learner and a teacher

Throughout the years my teaching philosophy has been influenced by various learning theories. Since I work with small groups, behaviour problems are not something I need to deal with on a daily basis. I know, I feel quite fortunate! So, behaviorism from the perspective of focusing on the importance of consequences is not present in my daily life as a teacher. I do like to reward students though once in a while for their hard work just to show my appreciation. For evaluation purposes, I use report card inserts to show student growth, so just doing well in school to get good grades is not the case either. The benefit of using report card inserts is that it is always positive. It is a celebration of the improvement of my students’ English language skills.

https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/514606694893812608/?nic_v2=1a4YwBrQs

If I think back of my schooling, it was probably 90% based on behaviorism. We were constantly evaluated/ graded, so I studied because I wanted to get good marks.

https://media.giphy.com/media/3orif1xSQnwOkYIRjO/giphy.gif

Due to this, I feel that in my school, developing advanced problem solving skills, inferencing, critical thinking were not a priority and what affected me mostly later on in life was the lack of advanced English language development.

I was taught English for 12 years and when I moved to Canada, I struggled expressing myself. I cannot say that cognitivism was not present since I learnt vocabulary words, grammar, I also had a lot of information stored in an organized and meaningful manner. I had the connections in my mind, I just didn’t have the opportunity to create meaning from experience (Bednar et al., 1991). As described in the article, “Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective”, I feel that the specific interaction between the learner and environmental factors are critical when it comes to creating knowledge. “Just as the learning of new vocabulary words is enhanced by exposure and subsequent interaction with those words in context (as opposed to learning their meanings from a dictionary), likewise it is essential that content knowledge be embedded in the situation in which it is used.” As my classmate, Lisa mentioned Meaningful Learning helps transfer knowledge in real life situations. The rote learning based on memorization that took place for so many years in my home country was taken to the next level by me getting the opportunity through my everyday life in Canada to implement what I had learnt. This gave me the opportunity to experience the constructivist approach to learning since my everyday interactions helped me to create meaning. In my realistic setting, I was able to learn “shades of meanings of given words” and it never felt like studying since it was all relevant to my lived experiences.

When looking back at my learning curve, I can certainly see the importance of the three crucial factors when trying to be successful at learning, especially when it comes to a foreign language: the activity (practice), concept (knowledge), and the culture (context) (Brown et al., 1989). As the constructivist approach states, in order for me to be able to transfer my knowledge, I needed to be “… involved in authentic tasks anchored in meaningful contexts”. As a language learner and English as an Additional Language teacher, I agree that “If learning is decontextualized, there is little hope for transfer to occur.” But teaching my students in small groups also gives me the opportunity to incorporate many of the principles of Connectivism, such as: learning and knowing diverse opinions and views, maintaining and nurturing connections that play an important role in learning, focusing on connections between different fields, ideas and concepts as well as incorporating accurate, up-to-date learning activities. Not only in school, but during my Master’s Certificate Program in Educational Technology, I have experienced that within our hub we are well-connected where we can foster and maintain knowledge flow.

Peggy A. Ertmer and Timothy J. Newby

Today I would describe my teaching and learning as a mixture of all four learning theories. It depends on the students’ proficiency level and personality what strategy I see more beneficial since I do not believe in one size fits all. But I ALWAYS try to be the guide on the side (Vygotski) in order to help my students feel safe while immersing themselves in their individual learning journey.