WEEK 1 RECAP: Technology in the Classroom Enhances Learning

Wow, what a fun week! I am always a little apprehensive about group work, especially when time is of the essence, but I have to say I lucked out with two fantastic partners in Erin and Kyle. The format of the debate was also new to me, as I hadn’t done any formal debate since high school in history class. Rather than simply talk for the first 5 minutes, we decided to do it in style, showcasing just how much more a visually engaging video might provide a better platform for our opening argument. Check it out below:

In the end we came up with a fairly comprehensive list of what we believed were solid strengths for technology being an asset towards learning:

  • Decreased learning challenges for LD and EAL learners
  • Increased collaboration (between peers, between teacher and students, and on a global scale)
  • Connects students to experts within different fields (i.e. via Twitter)
  • Increase student engagement
  • Supports personalized learning
  • Gives a voice to those uncomfortable sharing face-to-face
  • Provides students with an increased audience (blogging)
  • Allows students to be producers and not only consumers of knowledge (shift from read-only culture to read-write culture)
  • Open source resources mean students are learning from up to date sources, not outdated textbooks
  • Allows students to create a positive digital presence which will be beneficial beyond the K-12 school experience
  • Breaks down geographical barriers (distance learning for individuals from remote communities)

While much of this was culled from simple online searches and the personal experience we have had with technology on our own learning and that of our students, there do exist many studies that conclusively show the benefits of technological aids on learning. Adebisi, Liman, & Longpoe’s (2015) article on Using assistive technology in teaching children with learning disabilities in the 21st century provides not only a solid overview of the benefits of assistive tech as well as many options available to the learning environment, but as well a reminder that this technology is but a tool, and needs to be used appropriately to enhance learning:

• Assistive technology can only enhance basic skills, and not replacing them. It should be used as part of the educational process, and can be used to teach basic skills.

• Assistive technology for children with disabilities is more than an educational tool; it is a fundamental work tool that is comparable to pencil and paper for non-disabled children.

• Children with disabilities use assistive technology to access and use standard tools, complete educational tasks, and participate on an equal basis with their developing peers in the regular educational environment.

• The use of assistive technology does not automatically make educational and commercial software/tools accessible or usable.

• An assistive technology evaluation conducted by a professional, knowledgeable in regular and assistive technology, is needed to determine whether a child requires assistive technology devices and services and should be specified in the children’s instructional plans.


• Assistive technology evaluation must address the alternative and augmentative communication needs, that is, ability to communicate needs and change the environment for children with disabilities.

• To be effective, an assistive technology evaluation should be ongoing process.

It is in these points that I believe our awesome adversaries (that had the arduous position to argue against tech as a benefit to learning) had some strong arguments. Technology, in the form of PC’s, tablets, etc. has become more and more prevalent in the classroom, each with their own variety of educational apps. The issue, which I also agree with, is that without explicit instruction on how to use the apps appropriately, tied with tech support in the classroom and solid classroom management, technology can and will be used inappropriately, resulting in distraction and less overall effort toward completing tasks.

I think Kyle’s counterargument, in that technology as a tool has been used for centuries, and that teachers need to rise to the occasion and become competent in understanding and using the same tech as their students in order to teach them to use it effectively, and to assist them in using their tools and their time effectively.

In case you were wondering how the video was made:

After meeting and deciding on three focuses, we each recorded our separate sections using the voice record on our phones, and sent them up into the cloud. I then used an app called Clip Grab to pull videos off of online sites that fit the content of the voice recordings. Using iMovie, I then cut all the clips to appropriate sizes, removing irrelevant content that didn’t fit with the content. Sticking the audio clips in the audio track, I then cobbled together all the smaller clips into a narrative. Finally I added the titles which had relevant quotes and information I felt were necessary to get the point across.
To wrap up, here’s an interesting article I found that corresponds to how much more effective visual ads are in catching the attention of a viewer, over traditional text or speech based forms of advertisement.

Oh, one last thing, Ian (and Urkel) has done a fantastic job of working through the pros and cons. Check it out here

What’s the Point?

We all know by this point how important digital literacy and digital citizenship are for our students. Like any new initiative roll out, things will take time before the continuum that the Saskatchewan Government has created begins to gain traction in schools and school boards. Like the video we watched in class of the lone raver at the music festival, once others join, more and more will find this focus on digital citizenship irresistible (or mandatory), and will have it incorporated into their classrooms.

Creating a buy-in then, is essential for those first few converts. In this case, what can we do to pique the interests of others (teachers, educational admin) to take this SK continuum seriously? The document is at this point not going to be touched by many. While resources abound around the internet, it’s intimidating for anyone, let alone an educator that feels uncomfortable using email as a means of communication with parents, to read such a document and put together resources that are authentic.

It’s fortunate that this class exists as a means of creating those buy-ins for schools, teachers, and yes, parents to see how it really isn’t so intimidating a topic, and that it does need to be a subject that is broached in the classroom/school/home.

The website I’m currently making will hopefully serve as a stop gap between the SK Curriculum and Ribble’s 9 Elements for parents, school admin, and teachers I list parents first simply because without home support, there is not going to be the comprehensive consistency that is required to monitor and support positive behaviours online. School admin comes next because, let’s face it, without the pressure to add yet another topic into the classroom dialogue, most teachers will exclude it.

Not because it isn’t important, but because, and I’m preaching to the choir at this point, teachers are already overworked and are juggling a thousand things at once; one more initiative, and everything gets affected.

School admin will need to set up a school environment that conforms to the suggestions and requirements laid out by the SK Digital Citizenship document, and to provide teachers with a place to start that does require a buy in, but isn’t as simple as step-by-step classroom lessons. Alongside this facilitation, a literacy or technology specialist (usually shared between a number of schools) would be excellent in supporting teacher learning. Giving teachers the opportunity to take PD on this curriculum, as well as improving their digital proficiency in classroom supports like Google Drive, Classroom, and Read & Write for Google Chrome would improve confidence and would likely increase the chances that teachers would follow through with modeling and instructing students in these areas.

Creating a timeframe to roll out this initiative would also be helpful for schools. This time of the year would be a terrible time to roll out a new initiative. Everyone is coming off report cards, the holidays are fast approaching, and everyone needs a break. Making a mention of the rollout before Christmas might provide teachers the opportunity to simply mull the idea of digital citizenship around in their heads over the break. Following the holiday, admin could introduce the SK Digital Curriculum to their staff, alongside an easily understood and accessible website that offers lots of resources and tips for teachers. Teachers would then have a variety of PD opportunities to look deeper into these resources, and to brainstorm how to pull these resources into authentic learning experiences. The goal could be that all staff are to try and implement this new curriculum into their classrooms in the Fall. This sets a goal that is far enough in advance that it is manageable for staff. Getting a new initiative thrown in your lap on the first day back after summer is never welcomed warmly, so knowing ahead of time would be ideal.

This is what has been on my mind over the last couple weeks as I’ve formed a love/hate relationship with the WordPress website creator. I sincerely am hoping to create something that will be relevant, accessible, and useful to my colleagues, as well as to my school, my students, and their parents.

Star Wars is SOOO topical right now

One future idea for this class in the future would be to collaborate more to create a class-built site that answers all the issues I have spoken about in this post. That would ensure that it would be used as a resource in the future, and perhaps even purchased? by the ministry as the much-needed interactive resource part of the SK Digital Citizenship package. Thoughts?