Author Archives: Trevor Kerr

Summary of Learning

I can’t believe we’ve already reached the end of this semester. It wasn’t so long ago that I was preparing for the first debate against Nancy and Amanda. Reflecting on this semester, there were so many things that I learned over the past 6 weeks. Turns out, there are very few simple answers when addressing the challenging issues and topics that face us as teachers using technology in the classroom. I’ve learned a lot about the value of looking at both sides of a topic or issue, regardless of where you stand on an issue. In addition, I’ve continued to develop my understanding of the positives and negatives that come with using technology in the classroom. In the end, there is no right answer. As technology can provide incredible benefits to teachers, it also creates additional challenges at the same time.

To all my wonder classmates of ECI 830, I truly enjoyed learning from all of you. The wide range of perspectives and beliefs made it a very rewarding experience and I took a lot away from many of you. The quality of arguments put up in the debate, whether you agreed with the topic or not, were very thought provoking and enjoyable to watch.

Please take a minute to check out the summary of learning created by Matt and myself. We hope you enjoy the “dirt” we found on Dr. Alec Couros.

Is openness and sharing unfair to our students? The Great EdTech Debate

Lucky for us, we were treated to another great episode of The Great EdTech debate. Debating the issue, “Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students” both sides put up a strong argument on topic. Starting with the agree side, Melinda and Altan presented some thought provoking thoughts about this topic, especially in regards to the EAL learners in our country. On the opposite side of the debate, Sherrie and Dean countered with some strong points as to why openness and sharing is actually beneficial to our students.

Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students – Agree

Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students – Disagree

My Thoughts

After hearing both sides of the debate, I connected with the thoughts and ideas on both sides of the debate. For one, should we require student permission before posting a photo of them to social media? Or, is the permission form signed at the beginning of the year good enough and we are free to post whatever images we choose. I question whether we should go beyond a simple signature in September of every school year. In my position of power and authority, I know that my students aren’t going to question and challenge me if I take a picture of them. I also know that if I tell them to get the form signed, they will likely get the form signed. But, do they really want that picture being posted to social media? As teachers, we often teach and educate our students about the importance of controlling and contributing to their digital footprint. Yet, we often freely contribute and curate their footprint, often without them even knowing it. Thinking back to last semester, Victoria tweeted about the difference between consent and assent. Applying this to education and sharing of students on social media, I think we should take some time to consider this in our classrooms.

In terms of sharing content and being open in school, I feel that there is tremendous opportunity and benefits to students in this area. Whether it be a Mystery Skypes, digital book clubs, or connecting with a class across the world through Flipgrid, I think there are many ways that sharing and openness can be beneficial to our students. Breaking down the walls of a classroom provided opportunities that did not exist prior to social media. This allows students to:

  • Hear different perspectives, especially from those who don’t dominate the conversation in school
  • Authentically learn from and with other’s that have a different worldview. Whether this be a different culture, race, or religion, this is a very powerful experience
  • Collaborate on larger scale, which includes other schools and professionals from all over the world
  • Actively learn how to positively and effectively contribute to the digital space

Overall, I am truly at a crossroads whens it comes to the debate of openness and sharing. When it comes to sharing of personal images of students, I question the intent and goal behind sharing images of students on social media platforms. In some cases, our students are being used to market ideas, lessons, or classroom activities to a global audience. As I think we should teach our students ways that they can positively use social media, I’m not sure we should use them for our social media. Now, I believe that 99% of these teachers don’t have an ill intentions with the content that is being shared on social media. Rather, I think we need to critically look at the situation and ask ourselves a few questions before posting student images to social media. As we push our students to make smart decisions online and watch what they post, should they have more choice as to what’s being posted to social media accounts by us? Should they have full control of their digital footprint or should we dictate how that looks like? Who is benefiting from posting this image to social media? In saying this, there are so many teachers doing any amazing job of social media account with their classroom. As a teacher, if we can find academic value, social value, or improved community connections for our students, I think that’s a good enough reason to post to social media.

Openness and sharing of ideas provides tremendous opportunity for teachers, students, and society as a whole. Through the openness of the internet, students have endless opportunities to truly learn about anything they want. School hasn’t always been this way, as the narrative has been shaped by a few textbooks sitting on the shelves of a classroom. In my personal experience with a project such as Genius Hour, the openness of the internet has allowed students to learn things that I have truly no clue about. It’s allowed them to explore passion, spark creativity, and develop critical thinking skills that I probably wouldn’t be able to teach them.

Should cellphones be banned in the classroom?

We were treated to another Great EdTech debate last week. With cellphones often being a contentious issue in education, I knew that we were in for a good debate that evening. Starting with the agree side of the debate, Jill and Tarina created a good video and argument as to why we shouldn’t allow cell phones in the classroom. Countering on the other side, Skyler and Alyssa countered with some strong content as to why we should allow cellphones in our classroom. Prior to the debate, I disagreed with the statement and truly believe that banning cellphones in the classroom is not an effective digital citizenship strategy for our students. In saying that, Jill and Tarina raised some valid points that must be addressed in the classroom to ensure we are following best practice in regards to technology.

Cellphones should be banned in the classroom – Agree

Cellphones should be banned in the classroom – Disagree

My thoughts

As mentioned above, I don’t believe that banning cellphones in the classroom is an effective strategy given the current state of technology use in our society. For one, I think it’s important to model and demonstrate productive cellphone use to our students. I feel that most of our students are using their cellphones simply for entertainment or communication purposes. For example, students spend a lot of time using Snapchat to communicate or TikTok for some entertainment and laughs. I don’t think this is a problem, as I use these tools in the exact same way. But, I think we should also teach students that this tool is far more powerful and helpful to them in so many different ways. Applied to my classroom, student are taught to download and use the Seesaw and Flipgrid which an be used at home or school. As I teach in a 1:1 classroom, there isn’t a significant need to regularly use these at school. Not all classrooms are 1:1 which could lead to many students being in classrooms with minimal or no technology. Let’s teach our students how to use this extremely powerful device to help them both personally and educationally. In the wise words on Skyler, “Don’t make a ban, have a plan.”

Pixabay

We can also lead by example and show our students how to effectively use cellphones for productivity and work. During the night of the debate, there was a conversation around the idea of teachers using cellphones and some divisions outright banning or severely limiting them. As someone who uses their cellphone frequently for work, I would 100% be against banning cellphones for teachers. In the busyness of a typical school day, it’s often far more effective for me to use my cellphone rather than going to my desk and accessing everything through my laptop. In addition, I’m rarely sitting at my desk, which makes using my laptop even more challenging. In a typical pre-covid school day, here are a few examples of how teachers use their cellphones effectively in their practice:

Planbook: All of my planning and scheduling is completed online using the Planbook website and application. Through this tool, I know what day of the week it is (Ex: Day 3), what’s up after recess (Ex: Assembly at 10:45), where I’m supervising (Ex: Lunch supervision), and when my prep is for that day (Ex: 12:55-1:25). In addition, the planning tools allows me to embed documents and links that I am using for that school day. It’s quite convenient and beneficial for me to access this on my cellphone. As I use this organizational tool daily, students witness and understand how this tool is helping me stay organized throughout a typical school day.

Planbook Cellphone View

Seesaw: Seesaw is frequently used on a daily basis for many different things in the classroom. In any given day, I might respond to a parent message, share a picture of a classroom activity, review student assignments, or send out an announcement to parents. Completing these tasks on my cellphone is quite convenient and often requires less time than pulling out my laptop. Alternatively, if I was only able to complete these tasks on my laptop, I would be far less effective and likely take much longer to complete these tasks. Not only that, students learn how to use this tool for many different purposes. In the example below, this student used Seesaw to contact me when he couldn’t contact me through Office 365 last week.

Some other ways that teachers use their cellphone include:

  • Emails: Do they ever slow down?
  • Google: Looking up things that students ask me that I don’t understand.
  • EAL Learners: Helping students understand through images or translators.
  • Office Lens: Converting images of documents to digital files.
  • Pictures and Videos: Taking good quality videos and images to share with parents. Also, taking pictures of student assignments to contribute to their digital portfolio on Seesaw
  • Safety Purposes: Reporting recess incidents to admin, such as a student having a seizure on the playground.

Overall, I’m definitely opposed to banning cellphones in the classroom. When used properly, these tools have tremendous capabilities that can benefit students in so many different ways. I think the misconception about cellphone use in the classroom comes from a lack of understanding of how they are actually being used for educational purposes. When the general public thinks about cellphones in the classroom, they often think that students are sitting on their phone and texting all day. The reality, many teachers are using them for creating content, doing research, and many other solid educational purposes. Lastly, I think there needs to be more work done with parents regarding digital citizenship outside of the school setting. As many teachers do an amazing job of teaching digital citizenship within the walls of the school, I often wonder how much work is being done at home. Are parents teaching kids how to safely maneuver Snapchat and TikTok, as they are primarily being used at home? With a strong home and school connection, we can continue to develop strong digital citizenship skills in our students.

Is social media ruining childhood?

In this week’s episode of the Great EdTech debate, the debaters had the difficult task of arguing the impact of social media on our young people. On the agree side, Laurie and Christina presented a heavy hitting video on why social media is having a negative on our young people. Across the table, Dean and Amy came back with an equally strong video arguing that social media has a positive impact on our young people. Going into this debate, I voted against the idea that social media is ruining childhood. As ruining is such a strong word, I found it hard to agree with that part of the statement. In saying that, I do believe that social media is having some negative effects on young people. As both groups created very strong debates, it was easy to connect with points on both side of the debate.

Social media is ruining childhood – Agree

I thought that Laurie and Christina did a fantastic job at the beginning of their video. Setting the scene, they took us back to the days of minimal technology use in our world. “Living in the present moment” and highlighting the simplicity of childhood in previous years, this was effective strategy to persuade the audience towards their side of the argument. In terms of their argument, many things stood out to me. Some of these included:

  • Mental health: Social media increased depression, anxiety, self-esteem and suicide in teens.
  • Addicted to the access: FOMO and seek validation from their peers.
  • Attention spans have decreased: This links to the lack of deep social connection

I think there are many different reasons to be concerned about how much social media that our young people are using. For one, there is research to support that exposure to photos on social media correlated with body surveillance, drive for thinness, and distorted eating practices among other things. A possible reason is that social media users “selectively display the ideal images of their appearance to impress others and receive approval from friends and peers.” I worry that our young people, particularly girls, are too often exposed to these unrealistic expectations regarding their physical appearance from a very young age. I understand the argument that kids have been exposed to this through TV and magazines for many generations. But, were they exposed to this at the age of 8 when they signed up for their first Instagram account? Did they feel the pressure to use a filter and post a photo for their peers? Did they have 24/7 access to the Kardashians, their friends, and influencers on social media? Were they connected globally 24 hours a day? The landscape has significantly changed with the increased use of social media in our young people. As social media isn’t the sole cause for these issues, I think the increased use and addiction has greatly contributed and complicated this issue.

Social media is ruining childhood – Disagree

I though the fake news report by Dean and Amy was a great way to counter the argument that social media is ruining childhood. The news report was an effective strategy to highlight the positive aspects of social media that often get overlooked. I would agree that the negative stuff, such as cyber bullying and exploitation are often highlighted in mainstream media. Some things that I connected with in their video included:

  • Teens are less lonely that in past decades
  • Groups online prove a sense of belonging
  • Can be used to spread positivity and good in the world

There’s no denying that when social media is used in a healthy way, it can have an incredibly positive impact on young people. As Dean and Amy mentioned, social media can be an outlet for those who might not have positive connection in their life. Online groups, such as the buddy project, provide strong connections for students who may not have these in their classroom or homes. Lastly, if we were to leverage social media and teach students how to properly use these tools, I think there is an incredible opportunity to use these tools to spread kindness and good in this world. Without access to social media, I’m not sure that our students would be able to make such an impact in the world.

Final Thoughts

I’m truly on the fence when it comes to this topic. In terms of using the word “ruining”, I don’t believe that would be the right world to describe the relationship between childhood and social media. As Daina mentioned in her blog post , social media is definitely changing what childhood looks like. As we often feel nostalgic about our own childhood and think that our generation is better than the current one, we have to put these thoughts aside and look at the situation realistically. Is social media going away? Not a chance. My question going forward is how do we educate and prepare our students to live in a world enriched with social media? How we create balance in our children so they appreciate technology, physical activity, the arts, and the natural environment? As teachers living in the current situation, we must do our best to teach our students the importance about balance in our lives. As we were taught about balance in terms of using video games and TV’s when we were young, we must do the same with the current generation of kids.

Schools should not focus on things that can be easily Googled – Debate

In this week’s Great EdTech debate , we received a double dose of support as to why we shouldn’t be teaching things that can be easily Googled. All four debaters, Curtis, Lisa, Dana, and Jocelyn did a fantastic job of presenting their thoughts and opinions on why we should focus on other vital skills in school. Going into the debate, I choose to agree with the statement as I think there are so many valuable skills that need to be developed in students that you can’t fulfill by simply typing something into Google. In saying that, Google definitely has a vital role in education when used properly.

Starting with Curtis and Lisa’s argument, I connected with a few different points throughout their video. The 6 skills to be successful: positive, bravery, determination, self belief, creativity, and sheer energy highlighted the need to teach other things that aren’t content or facts. I thought this was a great way to start the debate as I definitely believe that you need more than Google to develop these skills in our students. These skills, among others, are essentially for our students to be successful in their future. A teacher has the ability and training to further develop these skills in our students. In addition, a teacher has the ability to assess and understand what skills a student needs to focus on improving. Through this understanding, a teacher will guide and push student towards development of these important skills.

I also think it’s very important to use our natural environment to educate our students. If we simply stick our students in front of a screen all day, tell them to Google things, what impact does this have on their physical and mental health? In my personal experience with teaching online over the last couple of months, I have felt a certain way after spending multiple hours each day in front of a screen. Whether it’s a feeling of restlessness, tiredness, or irritability, looking at a screen has definitely had an impact on my own health. During these times, I have felt a great need to get outside and experience nature for myself. Whether this be a walk, bike ride, or a run, this has a positive impact on how I am feeling that day. I really don’t think this is any different for our students. In a time of connected classrooms, video games, cell phones, and social media, our students today might need the natural environment more than ever.

In my fall masters class with Dr. Nick Forsberg, the focus of the class was on using the outdoors to further our personal well-being and think about ways to use this in our professional practice. Through my undergraduate and graduate studies, this class has been one of the most influential on both my personal and professional lives. It really challenged me to think about the outdoors and nature in a different light, as this often goes against what traditional school looks like. When we imagine school, we often picture textbooks, books, computers, and teachers leading the way at the front of the room. In this course, we were required to read a book called, “The Nature Principal” which highlights how the environment provides extensive benefits to our physical and mental health. Not only that, it also improves our ability to learn and understand.

“We need people who have both ways of knowing the world. In other words, a hybrid mind” – The Nature Principal

To get a true understanding of our natural environment, you need to spend some actual time immersed in the environment. This allows you to see, hear, touch, and smell what nature has to offer. Not only will it give you a better understanding of the environment, it will have a positive impact on your physical and mental health. As the book states, it’s important to develop a hybrid mind that involves technology and non-technology skills. Through the use of land and the environment, students can further develop the non-technological skills. For example, we can Google and YouTube how to build a fire. It may look pretty straight forward and easy to do. But, when it comes to execute the skill, it’s much harder for students to do. If given the opportunity to practice in the environment, students can learn and improve this skill.

St. Kateri Outdoor Education Afternoon – January 2020

Dana and Jocelyn mentioned that searching things on Google limit students ability to critically think. I’d have to agree with that statement and students need to taught how to actually critically think. If we become too reliant on Google, do we actually do any thinking for ourselves? Furthermore, when accessing different types of information on Google, whether it be real or fake news, students need to have the ability to critically think and take in this information. Learning and understanding needs to be much more than simply regurgitating facts and content from Google.

Final Thoughts

I think the most important think to take away from this topic is that we need to find more of a balance in school and our personal lives. Google is amazing tool for so many different reasons. It gives people a platform to stand for what’s right, access to information, and the ability to make global connections and expand the walls of the classroom. The reality though, students need much more than the ability to type something into Google. They need to develop the skills to debate topics, connect with the natural environment, develop critical thinking skills, and develop social skills to use in their lives. If leveraged properly, Google can help assist teachers in developing well-rounded students.

Is Technology a Force for Equity in Society?

In this week’s episode of the Great EdTech Debate, the debaters focused on the question, “Is technology a force for equity in society.” With Nataly and Kalyn arguing the agree side and Victoria and Jasmine arguing the disagree side, I knew we were in for a great performance that night. As expected, they did not disappoint and put up a good fight on both sides of the debate. To make things more interesting, the debate also included power outages, wifi drops, and the debaters getting kicked out of Zoom rooms. I was very impressed by the poise of all debaters given what was going on that evening. Kudos to you for making the best of that situation.

Going into this debate, I agreed with the statement that technology is a force for equity in society. I believe there are many good things that come from technology both at a local and international level. After listening to both sides of the debate, I lean a little more to the center as there are many strong arguments as to why technology is not actually improving equity in our society.

Technology is a force for equity in society – Agree

Nataly and Kalyn did a fabulous job of presenting their thoughts on why technology improves equity in society. Their main points were really strong and made a good case for further use of technology to address equity in our world. The three main things I took away from their argument were:

  • Technology allows the marginalized to gain power and access information. As higher education and access to information has historically been for the privileged, technology allows those marginalized to have a voice and access the same information as others. Technology also allows people to bring forth social justice issues and make others aware of injustices that happen in our society daily.
  • Technology allows for individualization in school. Whether it be individualized content, assessment, or instruction, technology gives us the ability to individualize learning for many students that need it. I do have a slight concern that technology is often relied on too much when trained professionals could better deal with some situations. Nonetheless, there are endless possibilities for individualization when used properly.
  • Assistive Technology: In my personal experience in the classroom, assistive technology has been very beneficial for many different students. Without this technology, would these students have the same success in their school experience? I don’t think so.

Technology is a force for equity in society – Disagree

Victoria and Jasmine made a strong counter argument and highlighted some very important points when looking at the other side of the issue. The main points that stood out to me were:

  • Digital Divide: Affordability, accessibility, and varying ability were discussed in their argument. The digital divide concept is very complex and I think it must be looked at deeper to really have a good understanding of it’s impact. Just because a student has technology, it doesn’t mean that they can be successful with it. In my own experience with online supplemental learning, I have experienced the difference among access to technology in a single classroom. That divide gets even larger if we expand to other communities, areas, or geographical locations.
  • Techno colonialism: The exploitation of poorer cultures by richer ones through technology. Prior to this debate, I had not heard of this term. Laptop initiatives such as the one laptop per child are troubling as many of these communities don’t have access to clean water or proper schools. Is a laptop really the most important thing to them?
  • Exposed to misinformation: In the current state of the world, I think this is a major concern for all people. Whether it be political or medical misinformation, I worry that our young people aren’t properly prepared to deal with this wave of misinformation. It makes you wonder about the impact this misinformation has on our health, beahviour, and beliefs.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think technology has an incredible amount of potential if we want to properly address equity in our society. Although it has a lot of potential, there needs to be many other major changes before technology can have a true impact. Thinking about the digital divide and poverty,there ne eds to be some major changes in society before that idea can be fully addressed. Is it right for a family to choose between buying food or paying for their internet bill so their children can complete their assignments? Are we actually hurting those living in lower socio-economic situations due to the increased technology use at school? We’d be naive to think that technology alone is going to address the inequity that exists in our society. I believe that technology is just one piece of the very large puzzle.

I think that assistive technology and individualized learning has great potential to make positive changes in the structure of education. My biggest concern is that teachers aren’t properly prepared and educated on how to properly use these tools in the classroom. Is there enough professional development focused on using these tools properly? Also, instead of hiring more teachers, are we going to direct educational budgets to purchase technological programs? In a classroom of 30 students, would that technology have the same impact as a trained teacher? Increased technology use in combination with increased trained professionals will lead to great success for our students. I don’t think that technology alone will have that great of an impact.

I was very pleased to hear both sides of this topic. As with many debate topics, there is not a clear yes or no answer to this topic. I leave this debate with many more questions and things to ponder going forward.

Does Technology Enhance Student Learning?

Going in to the first Great Ed Tech Debate, I knew that Matt and I had a great challenge in front of us if we wanted to make a stand against Amanda and Nancy. Being as this is my second class with them, I knew they were very intelligent, passionate, and well-versed in all areas of technology. Nonetheless, I was quite happy to see that we had some serious competition on the other side of the debate.

A second major challenge for Matt and I was the topic we choose to debate against. If you don’t know us, Matt and I are very passionate about educational technology. We both teach in 1:1 class environments and we are part of a committee that helps lead connected educators in our school division. So it’s safe to say that we were debating against everything we stand for in our teaching practice. Although this was a major challenge, I found it to be extremely beneficial to see the other side of the debate. I learned a lot and definitely look some things in a different light now.

We broke down our argument into three main points that we addressed in our video. Our three main arguments against technology use for learning were:

  • Distraction
  • Pedagogy
  • Screen Time

Technology is a distraction in the classroom:

  • Technology in the classroom creates many opportunities and temptations for students to use technology for non-curricular means. This includes social media, music, games, and viewing content on YouTube.
  • The commercialization of the internet affects our students and their behaviours. Advertisements, banners, and recommended videos are being used on websites used for educational purposes. Many students do not fully understand that they are the target market for some of these companies.
  • Notifications and popups are created to take your attention away from your tasks. This leads to productivity and ultimately less learning in the classroom.
  • Algorithms are being used to distract students from their learning and take them towards products to purchase online.

Strong pedagogy is at the core of enhancement of learning:

  • Technology at best only amplifies the pedagogical methods of teachers – it makes good teachers better and bad ones worse.
  • Technology is often not used in the right away which provides limited benefits to students (Only substituting on the SAMR model)
  • IT use while learning causes information processing to be shallow in the brain.
  • Cool bells and whistles are created as a hook for educators and students. This will often lead teachers to use resources or tools with minimal understanding of the pedagogy behind using it.
  • Technology is often used to simply showcase a classroom or school, with minimal pedagogical value.

Technology in school overloads students with screen time:

  • Students are inundated with technology from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep.
  • The dehumanization of the teaching profession is having a negative impact on the relationship between teacher and student.
  • Schools are contributing to the technology addiction that exists among many of our young people.
  • Too much access and multi-tasking has a negative impact on productivity and thinking.

As we knew we were in trouble going into this debate, we had to resort to some alternative tactics to try get the upper hand in this debate. We took the attack ad style to this debate, which included fake tweets and a questionable slogan. Also, we had to reach in our closing argument and mixed in some borderline conspiracy theories. Overall, I found this assignment to be beneficial for many different reasons. For one, it’s important to look at the other side of the debate so you can understand where they are coming from. My learning through this project will definitely help me out as a connected educator. Lastly, making the attack ad video through WeVideo with Matt was really enjoyable and we had many laughs as we went through the process.

Fake Tweets

A Day In The Life – Technology Use for Supplemental Learning

It’s crazy to think that we are approaching two months of school and most of our province being closed. What’s even crazier to me is that three months ago to the day I was flying into Orlando for my first Disney World experience. As this was my first experience with Disney, I don’t think I as prepared for the amount of people that attend those parks on a daily basis. Can you imagine how long the queue line would be for the Avatar if you had to socially distance? Wow! I wonder how a place like that is going to look going forward.

When I think back to when school first closed, I remember making a prediction that school would re-open after the May long weekend. With word coming last week that school will be closed for the rest of the year, it turns out that my prediction wasn’t very good. With this week’s blog post focused on technology use on a daily basis, it was a great time for me to reflect on how much technology I am currently using. I know for a fact that I am spending way too much time in front of a screen. Here’s how I’ve been using technology to support me during online supplemental learning.

Professional Technology Use

When we shifted into online supplementary learning, I felt very lucky to be in the position I was in regarding technology and teaching. I am part of Regina Catholic School’s Connected Educator program. This program has given me the opportunity to teach in a 1:1 laptop to student ratio in the classroom. Most of the digital tools I have been using for online supplementary learning were already being used in the classroom, which made the transition relatively smooth. I didn’t have to spend a lot of my time teaching students how to use these programs as they had already experienced them in school. In saying that, there are definitely challenges when it comes to this online supplementary learning model.

Seesaw:

If I was restricted to one tool in my teaching practice, I would definitely choose Seesaw. Not only has it been extremely valuable during the Covid pandemic, it is very beneficial during regular teaching times. As Seesaw has many different tools embedded in the program, I use it in many different ways with my students and parents.

Seesaw is my main source of communication to parents. At the start of each week, I have been sending out a learning schedule to parents. This communication tool also allows you to attach documents to your message. For me, this has been beneficial as I can snip an image of my schedule and include it in my message to the parents.

Weekly Schedule Sent Via Seesaw

I also like the fact that parents can send me messages directly on the app and I have the ability to see who has read the message. I enjoy when most of my parents have read my communication.

I have also been using Seesaw to create and assign a variety of activities for my students to complete. These activities are pushed out to their Seesaw accounts and they have a variety of ways in which they can complete their work. They are submitted in the activity folder which makes it really easy to see who has completed their assignments.

Tools to complete activities

Overall, I think that Seesaw is a great educational tool because it’s one central location for many different features. I think this is also helpful to parents as it allows them to focus their attention and energy on one application. In a time where there are countless educational tools and apps, I think Seesaw does a good job of many different things.

Microsoft Teams:

I have been using Microsoft Teams as the main way to connect with my students. Through this program, I am able to hold live class meetings and lessons with all of the students that I teach. This tool also allows students to ask me questions through the chat feature.

Microsoft Teams Features

In terms of the live class meetings, I like that I am able to share my screen with the students to follow along as I go through a lesson or meeting. This has been very beneficial when teaching live math classes, as I’ve been sharing PowerPoints and OneNote pages with them when teaching. Also, this feature has allowed me to do some fun activities with my students such as BINGO, Quizziz, and Kahoot.

Sharing Screen During Class Meeting

I’m also a member of various other teams that allow me to connect with students I teach in other classes. This teams feature also gives me the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues.

Teams – Classroom & Colleagues

Microsoft OneNote:

I have been using Microsoft OneNote to distribute the bulk of the assignments to my students. I was already using OneNote in my classroom so I just continued using this for supplemental learning. I like OneNote as it essentially serves as an online binder or notebook for my students. OneNote is beneficial because I can embed links, images, documents, and anything else needed for the assignment. These assignments are pushed out to the students and they can often complete them right in their notebook.

OneNote Folders
Sample OneNote Assignment

Those are the three main tools I am using for supplemental learning. Some other tools I have been using along the way include:

Flipgrid – Great to build classroom community and connect online.

Sora – Online library for students to read and listen to books.

Epic Books – Another good online reading resource.

Code.org – Free coding website for students.

News-O-Matic – Current events article written for students.

Major Project Reflection – Coding in the Classroom

I can’t believe we’ve already reached the end of this semester. It’s crazy to think about how much our personal lives have changed since the first class on January 7. In the first two months of this semester, I was still coaching sports, teaching in my physical classroom, going to the gym, shaking hands with people, and even my first trip to Disneyworld! The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly changed our lifestyles and routines. This pandemic has given me a lot of opportunity to reflect and think about many different things, especially in regards to educational technology. When this is all over, I’m curious to see what structures or practices will change in education. I’m hopeful that we can critically look at our experiences and practices post Covid-19 and make some positive changes to education. In regards to my major project about coding, I accomplished most of the major goals I set at the beginning of the semester.

As I wrote about in my first blog post, I’ve been very skeptical about coding over the past couple of years. For me, most of that skepticism has come from not seeing meaningful curriculum connections when coding. I’ve been privileged to attend multiple PD sessions about coding but still couldn’t fully jump into it. I can honestly say that my learning through this major project has given me the skills and confidence to spend some more time coding in my grade 5/6 classroom. I can see value and purpose and I look forward to seeing where I can take this in the middle years classroom. I’ve actually had multiple students ask if they can learn some coding during this supplemental learning period.

The Learning Journey

To start my major project, I spent hours reading and trying to make sense of the terms of service and privacy policies for Scratch and Micro:bit. As we had just heard Mary Beth Hertz speak, these ideas were still fresh on my mind. This was honestly the first time in my life I dedicated more than 10 seconds to a policy for a tool I was using for my personal use. As I wrote about in my blog post, these policies are full of legal jargon, confusing, and not really enjoyable to read. Even though the read wasn’t that great, it was truly a rewarding experience to go through this process. It really make me think and reflect on my practice of using digital tools. As we shifted into online supplementary learning, I was questioning these things and applying this learning to the process. Whether its for personal or educational purposes, I still ponder the question: What’s the value of our persona data?

Once I was finished with the policies, I shifted into the fun stuff of my project. I spent a lot of time coding on both Scratch and Microbit. During my coding experience on Scratch, I was able to get a solid understanding of how the coding software works. I gained a good understanding of most of the functions and addressed common challenges I foresee in the classroom. I think that Scratch is a tool that can easily be used in the middle years classroom.

Once I was finished exploring with Scratch, I shifted directly into Micro:bit. To be honest, I think this was the most enjoyable part of the entire coding experience. I had a great time coding with Micro:bit and I look forward to sharing this with my students. As I highlighted in my blog post, I spent a lot of time exploring and troubleshooting common challenges that I would come across when using in the classroom. I’m very hopeful that I can get my hands on a few Micro:bit’s and explore this with my students.

As I could have spend my entire major project simply just coding, I had to spend some time addressing my other goals for the project. I researched and explored ways to connect coding with Saskatchewan grade 6 curriculum. Through this process, I was able to find authentic connections to ELA, Arts Ed, Science, Math, and Social Studies. I know for a fact that there are so many other ways to connect coding to the curriculum. Through some collaboration on Twitter, I was introduced to some new ideas and resources I hadn’t come across in my research.

Lastly, I explored and did some research on the Saskatchewan Robotics and Automation curriculum that was introduced last year. I was able to get a strong understanding of the structure and key components of this curriculum. This learning gave me the confidence and re-assurance that coding should be taught and explored in our elementary schools.

In conclusion, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to explore coding for my major project. I was able to develop and advance my technical skills when it comes to using coding software in the classroom. In addition, I found that “proof” I’ve been searching for over the last couple years. I can see the value of using this in my classroom. More importantly, I think this learning will benefit many students that I have a major influence on. I look forward to the day that I can introduce and explore coding with my students.

Exploring the Robotics and Automation Curriculum

As part of my major project, I wanted to spend some time exploring the Saskatchewan Robotics and Automation Curriculum. Although this is a high school curriculum, I thought it would be valuable to see how my students can continue using the skills learned in the middle years when they move to high school. In addition, I though it would be valuable to identify some important concepts and find way to incorporate this into the middle year. I believe that approaching coding and robotics as a continuum is far more valuable than random coding activities.

It appears that this curriculum was introduced to school divisions in the fall of 2019. According to a CBC article from September of 2019, “School divisions are responsible for determining what schools in their jurisdictions will offer these courses,” an email from the ministry said. “Divisions assess local needs and make programming decisions accordingly.” When I read that, I’m curious as to how often these programs are offered in our high schools across this province. In addition, do our schools have the necessary tools and resources to successfully offer these programs? Resources for robotics are not cheap and I worry they would not get the adequate funding to create a strong robotics program.

As I am an elementary school teacher, I do not know if these courses are offered regularly in our high schools. Please leave comment below if you can provide some insight on this question.

What is this course about?

The focus of this course is on design, construction, operation and use of autonomous and/or radio-controlled robotic devices. In addition, a focus is placed on the computer systems necessary for their control. Project based learning, design thinking, and inquiry learning are used to help students explore the processes and skills needed to design devices that they can control. Students can explore technology, automation, and robotics in this course. Lastly, computational thinking and coding skills will be developed to help them control their robotics or automated devices.

How should robotics and automation be taught?

The curriculum suggests two different course configurations for each grade level be developed; one with an autonomous focus and one that reflects a radio-controlled focus. An autonomous course would focus on the programming a robotic or autonomous device to perform pre-determined tasks. Some examples of this that are also used in elementary school include Ozobots or Edisons.

The second type of course they suggest is a radio-controlled focus. This is when the actions of a device are not pre-determined and need to be controlled by an operator. An example of this would be a robotics competition, where students control a robot to perform specific tasks. There was a group of high school students from the Trojans Robotics Team that traveled to Houston for a robotics competition.

The curriculum also allows teachers to create a course with a mixed focus of both components.

What are some key components of robotics and automation courses?

Computational Thinking: A broad set of problem-solving processes which provide a new entry points for new ways of thinking. Teachers should highlight the essentials of computational thinking, which include decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithm design.

Elegant Code: It needs to be simple and easy to understand. Developing an algorithm which simplifies code will make it more efficient. Writing elegant code involves carefully analyzing the problem and creating a balance between a minimal amount of code and the code being reusable.

Reusable Code: Teaching students how to find the bit of code they want and to interpret how to adapt it is a valuable part of learning to code.

Visual or Block Based Coding: Students that use visual coding environments have shown greater learning gains and higher level of interest in future computing courses. Students should also use text based editor as they are more similar to what professional programmers do. There is value in using both types of coding.

Design Thinking: This is a process for creative problem solving that uses human-centered approach to innovation. Design thinking is inherent to the project based nature of designing and actualizing a robot or device. This also empowers students as makers and creators who solve problems by using working devices.

In conclusion, I think there are many good reasons as to why there should be robotics and automation classes offered in all of our high schools. For one, many students will likely pursue a career in a technology field that will utilize the skills developed through this course. Whether it be computational thinking or text based coding, these skills will be very valuable more many students. This is the perfect time for them to prepare and develop the proper skills to be successful in the professional world. I have personally used the design thinking model in my classroom and had great success with it. This model allowed my students to identify real world problems and take the appropriate steps to address it. Through this model, it allowed my students to think about problems in a different way, collaborate with their peers, and create products to fix these problems.

I love forward to seeing this curriculum being offered more frequently in our high schools, as Dean mentioned on Twitter. As a middle years teacher, I plan to further develop my students skills to be successful in these programs.