Category Archives: Blended Learning

Can We Fight the Future?

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In many ways I’m disappointed that this class has come to an end.  Discussing edtech issues with fellow educators from all over the country has been a privilege.  I have definitely had to evaluate my point of view and it has undergone changes again and again.  I have been challenged to think critically about how I use technology in my classroom and I have even been presented with issues that I had not previously considered.  It was intriguing to speak with fellow educators who have very different viewpoints on educational technology.  It was very encouraging to discover that whether teachers are for or against edtech, a genuine love for students and a concentration on their needs was foremost.  Throughout the course I came to several key realizations which I will attempt to summarize here.

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The first debate covered the merits of technology in the classroom and I came to the conclusion that technology for the sake of itself is a perilous venture.  Each integration of technology in the classroom must be weighed and measured for it’s ability to enhance the learning for students.  Teachers should not be scared to abandon certain aspects of their edtech strategy if it proves inefficient or contrary to learning.  Secondly, we discussed whether we should be teaching content that can be found on Google.  I came to a strong realization that there are certain pieces of information that must be scaffolded and therefore must be memorized.  However, I also am a strong believer in challenging students with critical questions and real world problems that cannot be simply searched.  Practical application and skill development are key skills for the 21st century.  When it comes to the role of technology in our health and wellness, I came away with the notion that in many ways screen time, online bullying, and the stresses placed upon children due to technology are indeed affecting our youth.  Although there are many instances in which technology can provide health benefits, if we are truly considering all health aspects including mental health, it seems as though a balanced approach to tech use with youth is warranted.  Ian makes a great point about the resiliency of kids which i think is necessary to keep in mind.   In the fourth debate we tackled the question of openness and sharing in educational settings.  I am still of the opinion that we need to do right by our students and be cautious with how and why we share on social media.  However, some of the greatest lightbulb moments in my classroom have come from making connections with classrooms and individuals from around the world.  It has truly opened my students eyes to a different worldview.

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Tech for equity was another tough topic to tackle but due to my experiences overseas, I still had to come to the conclusion that although technology has made great strides for equity and that the bar continues to be raised, there is still much work to be done.  There are definitely many more marginalized voices being heard because of technology but at the same time, without equal access for all, it can hardly be equitable.  Social media is a huge reason why so many more people are interconnected.  However, it is also clearly playing a major role in the development of children in our society.  As previously mentioned, the sheer number of hours spent in front of screens on social media is staggering compared to even 5 years ago.  In my opinion, this is also an area teachers must approach with good modelling and a balanced strategy.  The appropriate use of social media for positivity must be a part of every classroom.  As Andy states in his summary, “with the right dosage and application, technology has the ability to enrich our lives, not harm them, but it must be used appropriately, responsibly, and we must be explicitly taught directions for use.”  If not, we will continue to see students who are depressed, overweight, stressed out, lacking sleep and unable to communicate face to face.

Lastly we discussed the corporatization of education and the role that companies now play in the future of our children.  Once again I was reminded that these types of decisions must always be made with students’ best interests in mind.  Education is a market that is ready to be tapped by many companies that would love a piece of the pie.  We need to ask ourselves, what’s the cost to our kids? and is it worth it?  I’m looking forward to discussing the overuse of technology and the necessity of unplugging from time to time as well.

In general I have come away with several key learnings from the course this term.  I’m calling these Luke’s Keys to Edtech Use.  Although they may seem simple, when applied to the issues discussed above, they have proven to be extremely good reminders when implemented in practice.  In essence, we will not be able to fight the future.  This is the way the world is headed.  What we can do is insure that students are first and foremost, that we are giving kids a balanced education, and that we are modelling what it means to live in a digital world.  Can we fight the future?  I certainly think we would be foolish to try.

Luke’s Keys to Edtech Issues

  1. Keep Kids First
  2. Take a Balanced Approach
  3. Model Model Model

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In the spirit of the debate format of the class, Steve and I decided to record a podcast in which we tackled and summarized some of the issues presented in this course. We expound upon these in the following podcast.  We also researched some helpful links in our show notes to further explore these topics.  Please enjoy the debut episode of “Steve’s Wrong vs. No I’m Not”


EdTech in the Classroom: Is it Really an Option?

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I have been teaching for 7 years now and even over that short period of time there have been many advances in the types of technology available to us in schools.  As I’ve stated previously I am a strong supporter of educational technology in the classroom due to it’s incredible capabilities for positive change.  It certainly is able to close learning gaps in many areas as subjects like literacy and numeracy are made more tangible.  As pointed out by Kyle Dumont, Erin Benjamin, and Jeremy Black this week, the positive nature of edtech goes beyond simply sprucing up a lecture to further engage students.  Online tools for students with Learning Disabilities or apps designed to help build language skills are making the difference for many students who would otherwise be left behind.  In addition, we now have the capability to have students visit famous museums on the other side of the world, skype with leading experts in a variety of fields and explore biodiversity face to face.  However, is the technology use in our schools always justified?  Are the positive aspects of edtech outweighing the negatives?

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After all, surely many, if not all, teachers have experienced the frustrations with the implementation or management of technology in the classroom.  From problems with the technology itself to the inherent issues that arise from student distractions caused by the technology, the Edtech in the classroom is not necessarily always effectively meeting the needs of students in the classroom.  That is not to say that technology should be seen as a substitute for good teaching, as was mentioned by Jeremy Black this past week.  On the contrary, many of the problems that teachers experience with Edtech manifest themselves because of lapses in planning and/or organization.  So do we throw out technology and go back to bygone days of copious note taking from a blackboard?  I don’t think this is the answer either.

What’s needed is a balanced approach to technology in the classroom.  Educational technology is defined by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology as “the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”  The key word in this definition is appropriate.  Technology in the classroom is just like any other learning enhancement tool.  Like overhead projectors, gestetners, or papyrus, technology is simply a tool to facilitate learning.  Therefore, teachers must constantly be asking themselves if the use of this “tool” is helping facilitate and enhance learning in my classroom?

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So how do parents and teachers perceive Edtech?  In this podcast parents and teachers share their perceptions about the implementation of Edtech and where the movement is headed.  One pertinent example is of a young Grade 1 student who went home and told her mother that she had been playing on the computer for the whole afternoon at school. There was little to no communication to parents about what the technology was being used for, and the student couldn’t name an authentic learning activity that she was using through the technology.  Herein lies one of the major difficulties of Edtech integration.  It must be carefully planned, organized and transparent.  It must have a purpose.  If the technology is simply a tool that is being used because it’s what teachers and parents think should be used, the point is missed.  Edtech tools must aid in facilitation and improvement of learning.  One of the best and most recent strategies to address the issue of Edtech integration is Blended Learning.  The idea describes a balanced approach to technology in education as students work with technology in small groups as well as being opportunities to work on problem solving tasks and projects.  Students are much more involved in their own learning and have opportunities for personalized exploration.

The issue is further explored in the Economist:Is Edtech transforming Education? In this podcast, some of the success and challenges of Edtech integration in the developing world are addressed.  Clearly, technology has the ability to bridge gaps for students who live in developing countries and give teachers in these areas of the world the power for tremendous learning in their classrooms.  However, there are also cost, access and maintenance issues that are proving to be a struggle for schools in the developing world.  On the positive side of things, making learning more individualized is always a good thing.  Students in a blended learning model have the ability to drive the questioning process and have more freedom to explore.  They also have the opportunity to apply their learned knowledge in hands on ways.

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the world is becoming more interconnected everyday.  It seems futile to resist the flow of technological advancement and especially so in the education field.  The advancements in Edtech even over the last 5 years have facilitated and augmented learning environments across the world.  For all the distractions, cost issues, and maintenance problems, we must remember that these tech tools are not simply tools to foster learning, they are now also woven into the very fabric of our daily lives.  As long as teachers continue to remember to integrate Edtech through planned, organized, appropriate, and transparent facilitation of learning,  these tools will continue to positively affect learning outcomes.