Category Archives: Directed Reading

Last Blast for the M.Ed.

With tonight being the last class I plan on sharing some of the apps, tools and plans I have to become as paperless as possible.

Throughout the semester I have discussed how I want to embrace BYOD and hopefully create a paperless classroom.  I have come to a conclusion that 100% paperless is not going to be a reality as there are so many obstacles to overcome.  I do plan on encouraging and developing as many of my lessons, classes, and units to be integrated with technology to their fullest potential keeping in my my students needs, curriculum, and the appropriateness of the concepts.  

I will break down my ideas into my subject categories:

Mathematics -
Photo Credit: MeanGirlsWiki
1. Teachings - I plan on utilizing a variety of sites and also creating my own content videos.  My go to site for content will be Khan Acadamey, Mr. Kouyoumdjian's Classroom, I will be using both Adobe Spark and straight video to develop my own lessons.

2. Assignments/Evaluation - I am going to be using Mathletics for most of my assignments next year.  This site has the Saskatchewan Curriculum connected to it, along with the approved pre and post assessments that I use throughout the year as my formative assessment tools.  When the opportunity arises I plan on using the manipulatives within my classroom as a stepping tool to bridge the gap from the concrete concepts to the pictorial that the students will be working on within the Mathletics program.

Science -
Photo Credit: Pearson Canada
1. Teachings - As I do not come from a science background I have to rely mostly on the Pearson text and teacher guide as my go to sources.  This is nice because each of the students within my board have Pearson e-text passwords and we are able to utilize the online versions often.  For supplemental lessons I typically find videos through our library services or YouTube is always a favourite.

2.  Assignments/Evaluation - As much as Stager relented about Google and its dangers, I do love it, and I find it very useful.  I focus a majority of my assignments around the Google Classroom platform, whether it is docs, slides or forms for a variety of assessment practices.  What I hope to do this year is connect with other schools within the division and hopefully Collaborate (I know another dirty word Mr. Stager does not enjoy).  On top of that I also plan on incorporating Kahoots for formative assessment along with Flipgrids as exit notes to check in with my students quickly.


English Language Arts -
1. Teaching - This is an area where my "paperless" classroom may be a grey area...  I have access to the Pearson E-Text library for the middle years which gives me a plethora of options, but I also work with a teach of teachers that have a 2 year ELA plan that aligns with our curriculum.  We use short stories, creative writing, integrated cross curricular plans.  My attempt will be to utilize PDF ve
rsions of our short stories as long as it doesn't breach any copyright laws, and then I am hoping that through utilizing the tools built into Google Classroom platform that the students will become more efficient through their written outcomes.  
Photo Credit: GAFE


2. Assignments/Evaluation - I will primarily be using GAFE as my LMS, therefore a majority of my assignments will be evaluated digitally as well.  We will be focusing on more of the process of the writing traits and reading strategies that the students need to improve upon over the year.  I feel that through using an online format I will be able to help identify and improve my students understanding of the process of learning through language arts.  I believe that the issues of plagiarism, copying out weigh the problems of incomplete/lost assignments and there will be less excuses for these issues.  As long as I am diligent in checking in with the students along the way I hope the copying issues will be less frequent.  

I am interested in getting into blogging with my students but I am going to need to get the other members of my teaching team to buy into my philosophy before I will be able to make this a fully integrated part of my Language Arts program.  

Over the course of the semester I have been compiling my information into a slideshow so I can share with my staff and school community in the fall.  I have a link to the document here, but it will not be "finished" for a few more days (by end of June for sure!).  Keep an eye out for it and if you would like me to share it with you so  you can edit it please send me a message and I am more than happy to share.  


Finally I would like to thank my colleagues/peers/friends who over the last number of classes we have worked together and got to know one another in many different aspects.  I will miss spending Tuesday nights with you.  At this current moment I am excited to be done, but at the same time I feel that I will miss being involved regularly on Ed Tech topics through classes like Alec/Katia's.  I am sure that the free time I will have will eventually be filled with kids activities and honey-do-lists from my loving wife.  

I'm Out!
GIF Source: Reddit
Kyle DuMont   M. Ed. (soon to be...)



Last Blast for the M.Ed.

With tonight being the last class I plan on sharing some of the apps, tools and plans I have to become as paperless as possible.

Throughout the semester I have discussed how I want to embrace BYOD and hopefully create a paperless classroom.  I have come to a conclusion that 100% paperless is not going to be a reality as there are so many obstacles to overcome.  I do plan on encouraging and developing as many of my lessons, classes, and units to be integrated with technology to their fullest potential keeping in my my students needs, curriculum, and the appropriateness of the concepts.  

I will break down my ideas into my subject categories:

Mathematics -
Photo Credit: MeanGirlsWiki
1. Teachings - I plan on utilizing a variety of sites and also creating my own content videos.  My go to site for content will be Khan Acadamey, Mr. Kouyoumdjian's Classroom, I will be using both Adobe Spark and straight video to develop my own lessons.

2. Assignments/Evaluation - I am going to be using Mathletics for most of my assignments next year.  This site has the Saskatchewan Curriculum connected to it, along with the approved pre and post assessments that I use throughout the year as my formative assessment tools.  When the opportunity arises I plan on using the manipulatives within my classroom as a stepping tool to bridge the gap from the concrete concepts to the pictorial that the students will be working on within the Mathletics program.

Science -
Photo Credit: Pearson Canada
1. Teachings - As I do not come from a science background I have to rely mostly on the Pearson text and teacher guide as my go to sources.  This is nice because each of the students within my board have Pearson e-text passwords and we are able to utilize the online versions often.  For supplemental lessons I typically find videos through our library services or YouTube is always a favourite.

2.  Assignments/Evaluation - As much as Stager relented about Google and its dangers, I do love it, and I find it very useful.  I focus a majority of my assignments around the Google Classroom platform, whether it is docs, slides or forms for a variety of assessment practices.  What I hope to do this year is connect with other schools within the division and hopefully Collaborate (I know another dirty word Mr. Stager does not enjoy).  On top of that I also plan on incorporating Kahoots for formative assessment along with Flipgrids as exit notes to check in with my students quickly.


English Language Arts -
1. Teaching - This is an area where my "paperless" classroom may be a grey area...  I have access to the Pearson E-Text library for the middle years which gives me a plethora of options, but I also work with a teach of teachers that have a 2 year ELA plan that aligns with our curriculum.  We use short stories, creative writing, integrated cross curricular plans.  My attempt will be to utilize PDF ve
rsions of our short stories as long as it doesn't breach any copyright laws, and then I am hoping that through utilizing the tools built into Google Classroom platform that the students will become more efficient through their written outcomes.  
Photo Credit: GAFE


2. Assignments/Evaluation - I will primarily be using GAFE as my LMS, therefore a majority of my assignments will be evaluated digitally as well.  We will be focusing on more of the process of the writing traits and reading strategies that the students need to improve upon over the year.  I feel that through using an online format I will be able to help identify and improve my students understanding of the process of learning through language arts.  I believe that the issues of plagiarism, copying out weigh the problems of incomplete/lost assignments and there will be less excuses for these issues.  As long as I am diligent in checking in with the students along the way I hope the copying issues will be less frequent.  

I am interested in getting into blogging with my students but I am going to need to get the other members of my teaching team to buy into my philosophy before I will be able to make this a fully integrated part of my Language Arts program.  

Over the course of the semester I have been compiling my information into a slideshow so I can share with my staff and school community in the fall.  I have a link to the document here, but it will not be "finished" for a few more days (by end of June for sure!).  Keep an eye out for it and if you would like me to share it with you so  you can edit it please send me a message and I am more than happy to share.  


Finally I would like to thank my colleagues/peers/friends who over the last number of classes we have worked together and got to know one another in many different aspects.  I will miss spending Tuesday nights with you.  At this current moment I am excited to be done, but at the same time I feel that I will miss being involved regularly on Ed Tech topics through classes like Alec/Katia's.  I am sure that the free time I will have will eventually be filled with kids activities and honey-do-lists from my loving wife.  

I'm Out!
GIF Source: Reddit
Kyle DuMont   M. Ed. (soon to be...)



A summary of my learning this semester

Introduction

Hello!
SOURCE: GIPHY

As we finish off our directed reading course, I have a lot to think about in terms of the effectiveness of bringing tech into a language class.

To reiterate what I said the other day in class, I felt as though it was very difficult to actually focus-in on research that specifically catered to my topic. I also started to gain the feeling that as we were answering some of the questions in our blogs, I was coming up with many of the same conclusions I had come up with in previous tech classes I had taken in the past.

First of all, tech is great. It brings SO much to the table as far as providing our classrooms with infinite amounts of resources that can be used and applied in infinite amounts of ways. As long as there’s a reliable connection to the internet available to use, students and teachers can access materials, resources, lessons and content from any hidden corner of the world.

Think about it…the “I left my homework at home” excuse is literally invalid now!

Wahoooo!
SOURCE: GIPHY

You’re in a rush and need a quick idea for a lesson? No worries, a quick Google search will actually bring up thousands of ideas that you can use in your classroom.

If you’re using an LMS platform in your classroom, you can keep track of your students’ performance and grades with minimal effort.

Sounds great right? It is, BUT (and there’s a big BUT), you as a teacher, NEED to know how to apply tech in useful and innovative ways that go beyond simply replacing the pen and paper. With every advantage technology may have, there are countless drawbacks that continue to scare teachers away.

In our last class, my classmate Kyle, who’s directed reading topic focused on the B.Y.O.D. approach to tech, came to a big realization. For the upcoming school year, Kyle was hoping to have been able to completely transition into a paper-less classroom. As we continued our research over the past six weeks, he realized that going completely paper-less is not 100% feasible. With all the drawbacks and potential unavoidable issues that come with bringing technology into the classroom (also relying on it 100%), going totally paper-less would be very difficult, and in many cases, wouldn’t be as practical as you’d hope.

Although it would be more realistic to aim for an 80% paper-less classroom, some subject areas such as math, rely heavily on working with paper. Having a pen and paper to write out your work is not only practical, but it’s much easier and functional in a math class for instance. Throughout the study, Kyle’s attitude towards B.Y.O.D. definitely changed. He no longer seems sold on the idea of going completely paper-less, something he wouldn’t have realized had he not taken the time to look into all aspects of this teaching style.

As Kyle was sharing his thoughts last week in class, I felt as though we came to similar conclusions and share a lot of the same sentiments towards technology. Although tech is wonderful and can make all sorts of things possible in the classroom, we still haven’t quite figured out everything about it…yet.

So why did I chose to focus on language?

SOURCE: GIPHY

I chose language as my main focus because I realize how many people have used technology in the past to learn all sorts of things relating to language. Languages are very systemic and scientific; there are rules to learn and memorize; there are exceptions and distinctions that you must learn to identify and understand; and you must practice over and over until you finally get it right.

A lot of software that’s being offered to consumers these days provide students with the opportunities to learn and practice all of these things in the privacy of their own homes. A lot of the software out there provides learners with video lessons, sound clips and audio books/texts, and even voice recognition technology. Furthermore, these programs often use some sort of LMS platform that can keep track of your progress and performance in real-time (including grades). Not only that, but most of these programs provide learners with real-time, online video and chat support with REAL PEOPLE (Teachers or trained instructors) in case they have questions or need further guidance/assistance.

With these services, not only are students able to listen and practice speaking the language, they are able to ask questions and gain insight on their progress as they are learning. It’s not perfect, but people use these programs, and they definitely work well enough that many people continue using them. I actually know a lot of people who have used language learning software and apps to either learn a new language, or to brush up on the skills that they already have.

In case you were wondering what type of software I’m talking about, here’s a list of some of the best language learning software in the market right now: Link

Summary of Learning

Let’s see here…
SOURCE: GIPHY

So what did I learn this semester?

For my final blog, I decided to give you a recap of my findings. I will then provide you with some reflections on my experience, as well as some final thoughts and some of the conclusions I came to from my research.

Blog 1: The cons of bringing technology into the classroom

Bring on the bad!
SOURCE: GIPHY

What did I learn?

Technology availability and funding are giant obstacles that will most likely continue to create problems for teachers, students, and schools alike. Equity amongst different schools and demographics is always going to be an issue and not all students are going to be provided with the same opportunities, tools and resources as students in more privileged communities.

Technology availability, such as reliable internet and WI-FI connections, are always going to be a gamble and will never be a guaranteed thing (…yet). When you’re simply trying to get a video to work or your students must log into whatever LMS platform you may be using in the classroom, if we don’t have an internet connection, you can kiss your lesson goodbye.

Then comes the question of convincing teachers and administrators to actually embrace technology. As my classmate Jen mentioned in her Cons blog, there are a lot of teachers out there that are avoiding technology for various reasons. Whether they are unwilling to adapt or change their old ways, or they don’t have the adequate training or direction; unless administrators and school boards are providing support, training, guidance, and ideas; then we can’t really expect teachers to be interested in, or take the initiative to implement blended learning in their classrooms.

And then there’s the age old question of distraction. My classmates Kyle and Liz both talked about student distraction in their blogs, and how devices, social media, and mobile apps/games have proven to be a giant obstacle for all modern-day teachers. Heck, even WE are addicted and distracted by our own devices, how can we expect our students NOT to be?

Blog 2: Preventative measures to avoid the cons

You gotta get creative with those solutions
SOURCE: GIPHY

What did I learn?

In this blog entry, I addressed the question about funding. For schools that are lacking in funding and equipment, I found a lot of information relating to grants and external funding options. In relation to having limited resources and equipment, I read about how to share equipment and allotting time for students to work on computers using a rotation system. These are excellent suggestions, especially if you’re hoping to slowly transition into a blended learning classroom. For classrooms and teachers who want to go completely paper-less however, sharing computers may solve some of the minor issues, but it won’t replace the pen and paper. I think the biggest thing I learned here is that sometimes we simply have to work within our means. As much as we may want to implement certain teaching styles, if we don’t have the tools readily available for everyone, then we must adapt and settle with what we have available to us.

Another interesting point that I came across was that as teachers, we should be advocators for technology. If we don’t want our students to be distracted by their devices, it’s our job to learn about these tools, and teach them how and when to use them in an educational environment. According to a lot of my findings, technology isn’t failsafe. There’s very little evidence that these tools are helping students flourish academically, so in order to use these things to their full advantage, teachers NEED to know how to use them.

In my study that week, I also learned the importance of training and providing as much support as possible to our teachers. If we can’t convince teachers and administrators about how beneficial these tools can be in the classroom, then we’re never going to move ahead and catch up with the times. If we’re providing teachers with the opportunities to bring these tools into their classrooms, we also have to be willing to show them the ropes and support them whenever they require assistance.

There was also the question of planning and how putting together online courses and creating your own content for your classes is not only time-consuming, but can be extremely frustrating as well. Through my own experiences and my readings however, I’ve found that through trial and error, a lot can be learned. Something that might’ve taken you hours to do initially, can quickly become a simple task after some practice. Teachers need to put in some serious work at the beginning, but once you start to get the hang of it, things get much easier from there.

As for addressing tech availability for students, it’s important not to assume what students have or don’t have access to at home. One of the articles I read suggested surveying your students to find out what type of tools they have available to them outside of school. If the majority of your students don’t have access to the internet, let alone a device, then you can’t expect your blended learning classroom to take off.

Blog 3: Interesting finds

interesting…
SOURCE: GIPHY

What did I learn?

This was an interesting week for me because I realized a couple things that kind of shattered some of my previous work to pieces. During one of our discussions in class, Kyle mentioned how many school districts, including the Regina Public School Board, often have restrictions or simply don’t allow teachers to use grants to purchase laptops for their classrooms. The reasons for this is because unless we’re purchasing board-approved devices and software, having devices that aren’t supported by the board will not receive any maintenance or tech support. For school boards, having classroom teachers purchase devices that they aren’t trained to repair only results in further costs and staff training. Furthermore, purchasing unapproved devices can result in software compatibility issues, potentially rendering the devices obsolete or useless. It’s important to figure these things out BEFORE you go ahead with any type of technology grant application.

I realize that regardless of how new and current your devices may be, they will only continue to work properly and efficiently unless we’re able to maintain them. If that’s not the case however, devices don’t exactly age too well and can become pretty much useless after a couple of years.

Stager’s blog post was particularly interesting because he argues that unless we’re providing our students with quality products, why bother bringing them into the classroom in the first place. I definitely agree with Stager. If we aren’t providing our students with quality materials and quality experiences, how on earth are we to expect them to produce quality products? How can we expect students to unleash their creativity if the machines they are using are incapable of performing such tasks? Unless you’re figuring out innovative ways to use these tools, it’s almost as though you shouldn’t use them at all. Definitely something to keep in mind.

Blog 4: The pros

Not bad!
SOURCE: GIPHY

What did I learn?

The pros were a lot easier to identify this week. Technology obviously has a lot going for it and it definitely offers teachers and students new opportunities that wouldn’t be possible without it. For instance, tech allows people who live in remote areas to access education; it allows us to connect with other learners from all parts of the world; and it allows students to take control of their learning and progress at their own pace. Students and teachers can access documents, lessons, resources and content from virtually anywhere. Sharing homework and assignments is as easy as a simple push of a button. Heck, even the fact that we don’t even have to leave our homes to attend school is an outstanding pro!

A lot of the articles I read pointed out how blended learning classrooms can help students develop better research skills, become better independent learners, improve their decision-making skills, and help them become computer literate. Technology can save time and money for teachers and schools, it can allow very personalized learning opportunities for students and it can help us gain better insight to the way our students learn (when using programs or LMS platforms that keep track of grades and performance).

Tech allows us to stay up-to-date, providing our students with the most current content. Technology is constantly evolving, improving and becoming more and more innovative. Apps and programs are constantly being developed to better suit the specific needs of our students. As far as versatility and problem-solving go, tech obviously reigns supreme.

What I learned the most however was its effectiveness in language classes, particularly with ESL classrooms dealing with second language acquisition.

Using language software for example allows students to practice outside of the classroom setting. This is particularly useful with reading and writing. Teachers can provide students with additional online content, lessons, resources, drills and enriching material that can allow learners to explore their learning at their own pace. If students aren’t feeling confident in one domain, they may go back and revisit specific units or modules.

Many programs that teachers use in language classes also allow students to practice their oral language skills with voice recognition programs. Allowing students to practice oral language outside of the classroom can allow students to become more confident and comfortable speaking out loud. The biggest argument for these tools is that you can go home after a lesson, and continue learning, which is essentially the key to learning a new language. Furthermore, the use of video, including tutorials, instructions, or even having students produce their own videos for assignments, allows the learner to interact with the material in innovative and interactive ways

Reflections

hmmm….
SOURCE: GIPHY

So what does this all mean to me now? Well, the initial purpose of this directed reading course was to find ways to implement technology in a language class. Whether we’re dealing with ELA, French, or we’re teaching an ESL class to newly arrived immigrant students, I’ve learned some very important things that will come useful to me as I start to experiment a little more with tech in my classroom.

As for all the negative aspects about technology, I think it’s important to always expect the unexpected. There are things that are simply going to be out of your control; relying 100% on tech may not be the best course of action to take.

I think the bigger things teachers need to focus on is to finding innovative ways to use technology in their classrooms. In order to reach this, there really aren’t any magical solutions. For one, you need to allow yourself enough time to prepare and put together your courses. Blended learning environments take some serious initial startup times to put together, so you can’t expect these things to run smoothly, nor can you expect them to start up immediately. These things take time to develop and require a lot of thought and planning to bring these things to life.

If you aren’t the one putting everything together from scratch, then you’re going to need to connect with people that either know how to do these things, or are willing to share their resources and ideas with you. Building a network, whether it’s for support, for ideas, for sharing lessons, or even linking and connecting with each other’s classes; it’s important to know people who are doing the same things you are. You never know when you’re going to need a hand!

I’ve come to realize that revolutionizing the way we use tech in our classrooms is a very difficult feat to accomplish. One of the reasons I say this is because I really didn’t find too many resources telling me how to use tech in really groundbreaking ways. Sure we can set up stations, students can work at their own pace, and they can access their information from any place at any time; but I didn’t really find anything that really stood out to me as truly “breath-taking”. Throw in the fact that devices are not only distracting, but also facilitate malicious behaviors such as online bullying; it becomes quite easy to allow the negatives to outweigh the positives.

Truthfully speaking, I can see why so many people dismiss tech when sometimes it’s actually a lot easier to simply stick to the basics and teach the “old school” way.

Negatives aside, I did learn a lot about how useful tech can be for ESL and students learning another language. A lot of the ideas that were suggested in my readings will be things I will be seriously taking into consideration for my future classes. Being able to flip through past lessons and modules, and even having the ability to work at your own speed would all be very beneficial to learners.

Languages require a lot of practice, meaning class time and conversation labs don’t provide anywhere near enough time to practice. Anyone who’s ever learned a second language will tell you that the lesson should never end in the classroom; it should continue outside of school hours, ideally as often, and in as many different ways as possible.
Teaching French immersion, I need to find ways where I can encourage and motivate my students to continue learning outside of school. The other day, Liz mentioned how a lot of her math students are going home at night and watching YouTube videos to learn concepts that they are having trouble with in class. Although we did joke about how some people would argue that video tutorials on YouTube could potentially “render our jobs obsolete”, there’s a lot that we can embrace from this notion. We briefly talked about how this could easily become part of our lessons. For example, we could assign videos for students to watch before class, that way they are coming to class prepared and with valuable background knowledge. In a language class, this could mean assigning students to listen to a French song for example, or having them decode, translate or transcribe the dialogue in a video. As of right now, I’m definitely going to be focusing a lot more time on trying to find new ways to provide my students with opportunities to continue learning outside of the classroom.

Conclusion

well…looks like I’m done here…
SOURCE: GIPHY

In closing, I would like to thank everyone for all the insight and helpful tips they’ve shared throughout the past six weeks. I feel as though these tech classes I have taken with Dr. Couros have greatly helped me build a network of reliable and truly committed individuals that share the same visions, passions and interests towards technology in education.

I have a lot to think about as I start to plan ahead for the coming school year. Thanks to my research and my peers, I probably won’t dive head first into any of these things, without taking some precautions. This also means I won’t be as hesitant as I used to be towards tech either. I’ve started to figure out some of my own cool ways that I can bring tech into the classroom; I’m definitely going to do my best to use them.

Lastly, what works for some people, might not really work for you. What’s important is capitalizing on your strengths and taking advantage of what works best for you and your students. If you’re not much of a Smart Board kind of teacher, then why invest the time and effort to bring in something that you might not even end up using to its full potential. Whatever you end up using, commit to it full-heartedly. I’m finally feeling as though I’m starting to figure out what works best for my style of teaching, and what type of classroom I’m trying to create for my students.

Thanks for stopping by everyone, and I wish you all the best in your journeys. Good luck!

Thank you, thank you!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Dre


Reasons For Technology Within the Classroom!

For most of this class I have been antagonistic in my approach to technology in my classroom.  This week I am feeling much more natural in researching why to incorporate technology.  Janelle Cox writes about the Benefits of Technology in the Classroom.  While her stats are from an undergrad study I can appreciate her stance.  What I did like within her blog were the links she connected with and how she shared her knowledge.

Photo Credit: Lon Levin
I stumbled upon an awesome blog that laid out how to incorporate tech into a classroom for the .  While I have not found any evidence supporting higher grades, reduced drop out rates, or any form of legislation forcing educators to incorporate technology into the classroom in Saskatchewan as of yet, there are other signs that technology has a huge importance in our society today, especially in the field of education.  Our federally funded national news company CBC continually does spots on the importance of digital literacy, coding, and incorporation of technology within schools across Canada.  While we are not being forced in any means to work on digital skills, we are approaching the point of:  if you are not teaching digitally, you are doing a disservice for your students.
technophobic teacher

The benefits to incorporating technology seem to outweigh the current arguments against the concept.  From personalizing education for specific students with high needs (extending curriculum or condensing), to the increased availability to teach through inquiry based methods, into blending or flipping your classroom to support the varied needs of time management for the every busy student.

Photo Credit: 2013 PBS LearningMedia
Students are feeling more comfortable with the idea of using technology within the classroom.  Not only is the ownership of technology (Laptops, tablets and smartphones) going up but the usage for school work is increasing dramatically.








Photo Credit: 2013 PBS LearningMedia
In terms of how the students are learning within the classroom is also changing.  As of 2013 over 80% post-secondary students have experienced online classes in some aspect.  I am sure these trends have continued.  We have seen this within our own university and the amount of online classes being offered.  With this we can see why it is important for the younger students to be introduced to technology within their education voyage.  The idea of readying students for their future workplace also falls into this category as well, because if the students do not know the basics of technology, how we expect their future employers to hire them for jobs that revolve around technology.

How to integrate technology is a topic of discussion we have had in many of our ed tech classes recently.  We know that different divisions have varying policies on what devices are to be in schools.  Within my division we are allotted 1 tablet for every 3 students in grades 1-4 and then 1 laptop for every 5 students from grades 5-8.  The message we have received for the reasoning behind not being able to purchase more tech for individual buildings is based on the financial upkeep and the workload to keep all the tech running at a working capacity.  Through studies my division has determined that through strategic planning every student can access the technology enough that the schools should not need more technology.  This is where most of us (actual classroom teachers, shake our heads at the utopia dream world most of the decision makers live in).

BYOD is a concept that my division is creating a policy on and as going to expect their schools to adopt. How it is rolled out and how the communities will accept it only time will tell, but I am hoping that with the board approved policy it gives the schools a little more substance to stand on when we ask our parents to support sending private technology to school for their children to use.  One of the policies I have read through and feel is substantial in how they plan on dealing with BYOD issues is from Alberta.

Another concept I found interesting and could very well combat the cost issues with our division is a Parent Owned Device Program.   With this concept the parents purchase a device and the school division would upload all the software needed to connect with the schools servers, and the students can access all the necessary digital needs, while off setting the cost based on the devices being owned by the families.  While this is from a private school, I feel the concept is worth looking into.  There will certainly be the conversation about have and have not schools, but similar to our new public MRI policies in Saskatchewan I'm sure we could adopt something similar in the public education system.

Throughout my research I am finding that everything to do with technology is a balancing act.  From how much screen time a student is exposed to, or how effectively the students are retaining the information they are learning.  We need to be sure that what we are planning for our students is productive and appropriate.

“One-to-one and BYOD are game changers, giving students access to digital tools throughout the day, across all subject areas. This paradigm shift challenges teachers to rethink and redesign learning activities to capitalize on their school’s investment in technology. ISTE
This puts more pressure on the teacher to develop the appropriate content for each grade/subject level.  This brings me back to the point I made earlier in the course about teachers and technology, whether it is 1:1 or BYOD that neither are legislated or mandated to have to be including this concept into the classroom.  While I feel technology is very important, I need to understand that colleagues around me may not have the same passion or belief.  The goal to education needs to be improving the students, based on curriculum first, and if you have the time, energy, or motivation then you can add in the extras such as technology.

Reasons For Technology Within the Classroom!

For most of this class I have been antagonistic in my approach to technology in my classroom.  This week I am feeling much more natural in researching why to incorporate technology.  Janelle Cox writes about the Benefits of Technology in the Classroom.  While her stats are from an undergrad study I can appreciate her stance.  What I did like within her blog were the links she connected with and how she shared her knowledge.

Photo Credit: Lon Levin
I stumbled upon an awesome blog that laid out how to incorporate tech into a classroom for the .  While I have not found any evidence supporting higher grades, reduced drop out rates, or any form of legislation forcing educators to incorporate technology into the classroom in Saskatchewan as of yet, there are other signs that technology has a huge importance in our society today, especially in the field of education.  Our federally funded national news company CBC continually does spots on the importance of digital literacy, coding, and incorporation of technology within schools across Canada.  While we are not being forced in any means to work on digital skills, we are approaching the point of:  if you are not teaching digitally, you are doing a disservice for your students.
technophobic teacher

The benefits to incorporating technology seem to outweigh the current arguments against the concept.  From personalizing education for specific students with high needs (extending curriculum or condensing), to the increased availability to teach through inquiry based methods, into blending or flipping your classroom to support the varied needs of time management for the every busy student.

Photo Credit: 2013 PBS LearningMedia
Students are feeling more comfortable with the idea of using technology within the classroom.  Not only is the ownership of technology (Laptops, tablets and smartphones) going up but the usage for school work is increasing dramatically.








Photo Credit: 2013 PBS LearningMedia
In terms of how the students are learning within the classroom is also changing.  As of 2013 over 80% post-secondary students have experienced online classes in some aspect.  I am sure these trends have continued.  We have seen this within our own university and the amount of online classes being offered.  With this we can see why it is important for the younger students to be introduced to technology within their education voyage.  The idea of readying students for their future workplace also falls into this category as well, because if the students do not know the basics of technology, how we expect their future employers to hire them for jobs that revolve around technology.

How to integrate technology is a topic of discussion we have had in many of our ed tech classes recently.  We know that different divisions have varying policies on what devices are to be in schools.  Within my division we are allotted 1 tablet for every 3 students in grades 1-4 and then 1 laptop for every 5 students from grades 5-8.  The message we have received for the reasoning behind not being able to purchase more tech for individual buildings is based on the financial upkeep and the workload to keep all the tech running at a working capacity.  Through studies my division has determined that through strategic planning every student can access the technology enough that the schools should not need more technology.  This is where most of us (actual classroom teachers, shake our heads at the utopia dream world most of the decision makers live in).

BYOD is a concept that my division is creating a policy on and as going to expect their schools to adopt. How it is rolled out and how the communities will accept it only time will tell, but I am hoping that with the board approved policy it gives the schools a little more substance to stand on when we ask our parents to support sending private technology to school for their children to use.  One of the policies I have read through and feel is substantial in how they plan on dealing with BYOD issues is from Alberta.

Another concept I found interesting and could very well combat the cost issues with our division is a Parent Owned Device Program.   With this concept the parents purchase a device and the school division would upload all the software needed to connect with the schools servers, and the students can access all the necessary digital needs, while off setting the cost based on the devices being owned by the families.  While this is from a private school, I feel the concept is worth looking into.  There will certainly be the conversation about have and have not schools, but similar to our new public MRI policies in Saskatchewan I'm sure we could adopt something similar in the public education system.

Throughout my research I am finding that everything to do with technology is a balancing act.  From how much screen time a student is exposed to, or how effectively the students are retaining the information they are learning.  We need to be sure that what we are planning for our students is productive and appropriate.

“One-to-one and BYOD are game changers, giving students access to digital tools throughout the day, across all subject areas. This paradigm shift challenges teachers to rethink and redesign learning activities to capitalize on their school’s investment in technology. ISTE
This puts more pressure on the teacher to develop the appropriate content for each grade/subject level.  This brings me back to the point I made earlier in the course about teachers and technology, whether it is 1:1 or BYOD that neither are legislated or mandated to have to be including this concept into the classroom.  While I feel technology is very important, I need to understand that colleagues around me may not have the same passion or belief.  The goal to education needs to be improving the students, based on curriculum first, and if you have the time, energy, or motivation then you can add in the extras such as technology.

Checking out the pros

Officially in the “future”
SOURCE: GIPHY

“The era where computers rule the world is here. Just as technology plays a major key role in business relations, entertainment, music, movies, and almost every aspect of our everyday lives, it plays an equally important role in education. Studies have shown that 90% of students have access to some type of computer or mobile device – whether at school, at work, or at home. So, it’s not surprising to see the evolution of classrooms and teaching methods gravitating in the direction of technology.”

Article can be found here.

This week I’ll be focusing on the pros of bringing technology into a language class.

Unlike my past posts, I feel as though this week will be a little easier for me as the media tends to lean in favor of tech use in the classroom.

“AYE!”
SOURCE: GIPHY

Whether technology is allowing people in remote areas to attend online university classes, or the fact that we don’t really have to rely exclusively on libraries to conduct our research for assignments (like many of us used to); having access to online and digital tools is definitely a “game-changer” when it comes to diversifying our teaching, our learning and our resources. For many students, tech is fun and engaging; it captures peoples’ attention and kids want to use it. Furthermore, not only do digital and online pedagogical tools allow students and teachers to have access to resources from anywhere and at any time, but they also make collaborating with others a lot easier thanks to cloud-based software (link).

Having access to the internet definitely has the ability to make every-day tasks much easier for teachers. Teachers can quickly share documents, ideas and lessons with colleagues with the simple click of a button. Contacting and keeping parents up-to-date is easier than ever with email, classroom blogs and online grading systems such as PowerTeacher’s Parent Portal.

Blended learning classrooms help students develop better research skills, learning independence, self-engagement, improved decision-making skills, responsibility and overall computer literacy. Others would argue that blended learning environments can also improve efficiency, save money and time, personalize learning and gain better insight of how your students learn and what type of support they may need from you.

“Basically, a blended approach ensures that not only is the learner engaged more and driving his/her individual learning experience to some degree, but also since different learners have different learning styles, a blended approach is more likely to cater to those varying needs. Of course there are also numerous benefits for the instructor – instant feedback, and the ability to quickly assess learner performance and needs based on reporting, testing or quizzing via the LMS. “

Link to article

With tech and blended learning environments, students have instant access to knowledge, teachers can personalize learning to better suit students’ needs, and with every passing day, teachers and students are gaining more and more access to newer and more innovating apps, software and tools. As this article mentions, technology can actually make our lives a little easier too:

“Educators should understand that if they employ technology in their classroom that is similar to the technology students use at home, their teaching job will be easier”

Unlike the old, stale textbooks many classrooms are still using to this day (sometimes from the 80’s and 90’s), online tools and resources can constantly be updated and can provide students with the most relevant and current content. (link)

Where the party at?
SOURCE: GIPHY

“This study investigated the potential benefits of a blended learning approach on the reading skills of low socioeconomic status students in Grades 1 and 2. Treatment students received English language arts instruction that was both teacher-led and technology-based. Comparisons were made with control students who received the same English language arts instruction without the blended learning component. Results showed significantly greater pretest/posttest gains on a standardized reading assessment for the treatment students compared to the control students. The greatest discrepancy occurred in reading comprehension. A sub-analysis of low-performing English language learner students in the treatment group revealed the largest reading gains. At posttest, these students performed at the level of non-English language learner students in the control group. Results indicated a blended learning approach can be effective in enhancing the reading skills of low socioeconomic students.”

Link to article.

The reasons are there you guys. Factor in the fact that the kids we’re teaching at school basically were born with devices in their hands; it becomes more and more clear as to why we should just welcome tech with open arms instead of dodging and demonizing it.

Technology’s the devil
SOURCE: GIPHY

I won’t bother going into everything that can go wrong either, because as teachers, we KNOW what can go wrong. But is that enough to make us want to quit while we’re still ahead?

As I read through my articles this week, I noticed a really interesting “pocket” that I’d like to explore in this post: using technology and blended learning while learning a second language.

oh snap!
SOURCE: GIPHY

There’s been a lot of research done in this field that’s worth taking a lot this week. According to my readings, there’s a lot to gain from tech for ESL students (or any students learning any language for that fact).
This article for example discusses how word processors can help students improve their writing abilities until their work becomes legible and comprehensible to others.

“We go through a process of creating and re-creating text until it is fully comprehensible to others and is accurate. We can create a draft, show it to others and, based on feedback, can make changes to improve the text. The tools can also help us by showing that our spelling or grammar needs work, too. Technology makes this much easier, and makes it more likely that learners will engage with the editing process to produce the highest-quality text that they can. This writing can then be displayed for others to look at and comment on.”

When I was learning French for example, this particular statement holds a lot of truth (for me at least). Having gone through the BAC program (French Education Program at the U of R), you are required to gain a masterful understanding of French. Students in this program must attend school at Laval University in Quebec for an entire year in order to gain the necessary skills to not only read, write and speak French, but also teach it. Writing for me was a big factor, as word processing tools, online grammar editors, dictionaries and writing tools all helped improve and develop my writing skills.

yeah, this is the 2014 model, it’s pretty cool.
SOURCE: GIPHY

Furthermore, although immersion is a major component to language acquisition, any additional methods that can either improve or augment the amount of social interactions and exchanges we have is going to benefit the learner:

“Trying to find ways for people to do meaningful spoken language practice in a class can be very challenging, particularly if, as a teacher, you lack confidence in your own spoken language skills. Linking your class to other classes around the world, using tools such as video conferencing, can give a reason for a learner to ask a question and then try to understand the response. It might also provide support for the teacher, too. The technology mediates the process, getting language out there and giving feedback that shows whether someone has or hasn’t understood what you have said.”

In the following article, the author makes a very interesting point in relation to social media:

“Using tech means that students can now turn to Twitter to use the language, without having to pack the class off on a school trip. Goria says: “Use of technology has moved towards the internet and social networks, rather than concentrating on pieces of purposely-designed technology that you would have in language labs. They increase exposure to the target language and allow you to join groups that share interests in the language.”

Although social media has a bad rap, if teachers start playing their cards right, rather than fearing and banning platforms such as Twitter and Facebook from the classroom, we could be using these tools to establish valuable social networks. If used correctly, these new connections can allow learners to connect with people around the world, potentially helping them grasp the language in more engaging and interesting ways. At the end of the day, we need to make learning a fun and engaging experience, so why not open up the experience to include as many people as possible?

oh I like that idea!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Another interesting point that was made in this post relates to confidence levels. When learning a language, one of the hardest things to do is actually speaking the language. Many students, including my very own French immersion kids, don’t always feel comfortable sharing in class because they don’t feel as though their language skills are adequate enough:

“Computers can also help oral interaction by creating some sort of safety for the speaker. You hide behind the monitor and it lowers your inhibition level.”

The article also points out the beneficial uses of video:

“Another major development in language tech has been the use of video, according to Stannard. “The potential of video is incredible,” he says. “It could be instructions, presenting learning materials or students producing videos themselves. They could pretend they’re telling the news in the foreign language, they could act out a job interview situation, or put videos online for students in Europe about their local town. We could even prepare for oral exams by working in groups, filming it and then watching it back.”

For some students, the traditional classroom setting isn’t always enough. Although the following article relates to ESL students, the same can be said with basically any subject taught at school:

“Learning English as a second language (ESL) in a conventional classroom means all students must crawl along at the same pace in class. However, if you are ahead of everyone then you might become bored. Computer programs and resources allow students to progress at a comfortable speed – quickly or slowly, depending on their level of proficiency. This allows the ESL learner to spend extra time on the sections where they require additional help. This important group of learners now has the opportunity to learn English more efficiently through the use of computers!”

This article touches on the subject as well:

“Further, some technology tools enable teachers to differentiate instruction and adapt classroom activities and homework assignments, thus enhancing the language learning experience. Distance learning programs can enable language educators to expand language-learning opportunities to all students, regardless of where they live, the human and material resources available to them, or their language background and needs. In sum, technology continues to grow in importance as a tool to assist teachers of foreign languages in facilitating and mediating language learning for their students. “

The following blog talks about how technology makes learning much more interactive and engaging, which helps solidify learning and understanding:

“Experts have studied and debated that language learning through input only is not only ineffective but is also not successful at achieving learner language development. The best way to learn something is through an interactivelearning environment created by technological tools and resources. For students learning a language, it‘s key to ‘do’ things with language rather than just learning about language from your teacher. Technology makes it possible for students to interact with their language courses and gather a more complete understanding of all of the language components. Some students feel more comfortable, less embarrassed to make mistakes and learn from them in this interactive, intuitive model.”

My final article once again addressed the question of writing:

“Web-based writing instruction has proved to be an important factor in enhancing the writing quality of low-ability English as a foreign language (EFL) students. In a study designed to examine the effectiveness of Web-based instruction in the writing of freshman EFL students, Al-Jarf (2004) found that the use of Web-based lessons as a supplement to traditional in-class writing instruction was significantly more effective than teaching which depended on the textbook alone. “

The article also discusses the possibility for collaboration and networking with other students from other places around the world:

“In another study, Hertel (2003) describes an intercultural e-mail exchange at the college level where U.S. students in a beginning Spanish class and Mexican students in an intermediate English as a Second Language class corresponded weekly for one semester. Survey results revealed this student-centered endeavor had the potential to change cultural attitudes, increase knowledge and awareness of other cultures, foster language acquisition, as well as boost student interest and motivation in language and cultural studies.”

At the end of the day, I’ve learned that some of the biggest benefits of tech in language classes is that not only can students work at their own speed, but they have more opportunities to challenge themselves when they are provided with the ability to connect with others outside of the classroom. Online and digital tools allow students to continue learning once the class is over. Students can build legitimate connections with native-speakers, who can provide the learner with different knowledge the teacher or class resources could provide.

This week was refreshing, as the past few weeks have definitely focused on the more negative aspects of tech, it’s nice to see the good that can come out of all of this. Although I am still on the fence on whether or not I’d be completely transforming my classroom into a digital and online learning space, it’s good to weigh both sides of the argument.

Thanks for reading everyone, I hope you all have a great week!

Dre


Why Technology

Last class Alec made a comment about why are we using technology.  There is no legal obligation, it is not a part of our curriculum, they are causing stress for parents, and teachers.  We talk about how it is the way of the future, but if the technology is constantly changing whose responsibility is it really?

I appreciated the article by Stager that he shared with us and I have used it this week as a jumping off point.  I went through his page and found an article about 1:1 Computing which was actually about the effectiveness of teaching keyboarding skills in the late 1980's.  The summation of the article sounds very similar to our discussion we are having around using personal devices within the classroom in today world.

There is widespread agreement that elementary school students need keyboarding skills. Whether keyboard familiarization is sufficient or whether students need touch typing skills depends on the nature of the school’s language arts and computer education curricula.
If we replaced the word keyboard with device the statement still stands as in today's culture.

There is widespread agreement that elementary school students need their own device skills. Whether device familiarization is sufficient or whether students need touch typing skills depends on the nature of the school’s language arts and computer education curricula.

With statements like this I am starting to ask myself, why isn't there a technology component into curriculum?  With the ever evolving state of technology why are we not required to be teaching with it?  Society obviously demands the upgrades as we can never have one device for much more than 4-5 years before it becomes obsolete.  I would like to think that with a statement from Stager's article on keyboard typing is so connected to using our digital devices in school that it would have become a priority to the curriculum designers at this point.  On the other hand is it possible that technology really isn't that important and we don't have to teach with it to ensure the student's are learning the curriculum.  I know I was able to get through the curriculum just fine into the early 2000's.

With all the research I have done in the last number of classes and throughout this specific one almost every article shows that engagement increases with technology but the overall grades/marks/understanding the outcomes is not increasing at the same rate, but there is only ever a minimal improvement if there is one at all.

One of our catch phrases lately has been Collaboration and if you have followed me on my technology journey you will know that I try to incorporate and teach through this method as much as possible.  But my new found friendly neighbourhood blogger (Stager) has a great article on this topic.  I feel that collaboration is a method that helps me get through the curriculum at a faster rate while encouraging more participation from all the students.  Stager has a very different view of how we should be collaborating.  As I read his article I laughed for the most part, both at the article and also at myself because many of the things he was satirically writing about were the things I am doing to be an engaging teacher, and using collaboration to engage my students more... Maybe I need to rethink how I am encouraging and designing my collaborative groups....
Cooperation and collaboration are natural processes. Such skills are useful when the creative process benefits from interdependence. The best collaboration mirrors democracy when individual talents, knowledge, or experiences are contributed to produce something larger than the sum of its parts.  Work with your friends. Work with people you trust. Work with people who have different skills or expertise. If that doesn’t produce the result you desire, you will find others to collaborate with. That is how you learn to collaborate. You may teach it, but the students will not stay taught.

So what do I do from here.  I am certainly feeling juxtaposed in between my desires and what is actually important.  The important pieces are ensuring the curriculum is taught.  That is my job.  I have to get through the grade 8 Math, Science, and ELA curriculum's next year regardless of what mode of transportation I use, be that pen and paper, technology, or pencil crayons on cardboard.   I do not think the Ministry of Education will care as long as my students are "learning" the curriculum.  My desire is to go paperless.   To do so, I need to supplement my classroom with out of school devices.  Within our division we are allowed 1 Google Chromebook for every 5 students from grades 5-8 and 1 iPad for every 3 students from grades 1-4.

With the outcome based evaluating I feel that I am able to determine how a student is doing with the more written language, or produced materials they can show me.  Through using these Chromebooks I am able to monitor and track how much my students are doing as long as they are using their board approved username and password.  (The more I think of what I want the more I feel like I'm becoming Big Brother in Wells' distopian world). With using the technology I have at my disposal I am able to ensure those students who struggle with organization will at least have a searchable document when I am helping them, also those students who are functioning at a higher level will be capable of extending their learning and dive deeper into topics of their own inspiration.

When looking at the question of why use/teach with technology, I am thinking about Postman's article we read in an earlier class around technological change.  Reflecting on that article we need to be reminded (especially about his stance on the purpose behind the technology)

 there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not.  
As long as we are focus on using technology to improve the quality education for our students, it is of benefit.  If we are choosing to use technology because it is easier for the educator, or it is only 'more engaging', but not providing evidence of improved understanding, then we need to re-evaluate how/why we are using this technology.

I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks of this class, as I am working on a document, and my final blog post as to how I plan on implementing the BYOD within my classroom, along with what specific apps and tools I plan on utilizing to provide a paperless classroom next school year.

Why Technology

Last class Alec made a comment about why are we using technology.  There is no legal obligation, it is not a part of our curriculum, they are causing stress for parents, and teachers.  We talk about how it is the way of the future, but if the technology is constantly changing whose responsibility is it really?

I appreciated the article by Stager that he shared with us and I have used it this week as a jumping off point.  I went through his page and found an article about 1:1 Computing which was actually about the effectiveness of teaching keyboarding skills in the late 1980's.  The summation of the article sounds very similar to our discussion we are having around using personal devices within the classroom in today world.

There is widespread agreement that elementary school students need keyboarding skills. Whether keyboard familiarization is sufficient or whether students need touch typing skills depends on the nature of the school’s language arts and computer education curricula.
If we replaced the word keyboard with device the statement still stands as in today's culture.

There is widespread agreement that elementary school students need their own device skills. Whether device familiarization is sufficient or whether students need touch typing skills depends on the nature of the school’s language arts and computer education curricula.

With statements like this I am starting to ask myself, why isn't there a technology component into curriculum?  With the ever evolving state of technology why are we not required to be teaching with it?  Society obviously demands the upgrades as we can never have one device for much more than 4-5 years before it becomes obsolete.  I would like to think that with a statement from Stager's article on keyboard typing is so connected to using our digital devices in school that it would have become a priority to the curriculum designers at this point.  On the other hand is it possible that technology really isn't that important and we don't have to teach with it to ensure the student's are learning the curriculum.  I know I was able to get through the curriculum just fine into the early 2000's.

With all the research I have done in the last number of classes and throughout this specific one almost every article shows that engagement increases with technology but the overall grades/marks/understanding the outcomes is not increasing at the same rate, but there is only ever a minimal improvement if there is one at all.

One of our catch phrases lately has been Collaboration and if you have followed me on my technology journey you will know that I try to incorporate and teach through this method as much as possible.  But my new found friendly neighbourhood blogger (Stager) has a great article on this topic.  I feel that collaboration is a method that helps me get through the curriculum at a faster rate while encouraging more participation from all the students.  Stager has a very different view of how we should be collaborating.  As I read his article I laughed for the most part, both at the article and also at myself because many of the things he was satirically writing about were the things I am doing to be an engaging teacher, and using collaboration to engage my students more... Maybe I need to rethink how I am encouraging and designing my collaborative groups....
Cooperation and collaboration are natural processes. Such skills are useful when the creative process benefits from interdependence. The best collaboration mirrors democracy when individual talents, knowledge, or experiences are contributed to produce something larger than the sum of its parts.  Work with your friends. Work with people you trust. Work with people who have different skills or expertise. If that doesn’t produce the result you desire, you will find others to collaborate with. That is how you learn to collaborate. You may teach it, but the students will not stay taught.

So what do I do from here.  I am certainly feeling juxtaposed in between my desires and what is actually important.  The important pieces are ensuring the curriculum is taught.  That is my job.  I have to get through the grade 8 Math, Science, and ELA curriculum's next year regardless of what mode of transportation I use, be that pen and paper, technology, or pencil crayons on cardboard.   I do not think the Ministry of Education will care as long as my students are "learning" the curriculum.  My desire is to go paperless.   To do so, I need to supplement my classroom with out of school devices.  Within our division we are allowed 1 Google Chromebook for every 5 students from grades 5-8 and 1 iPad for every 3 students from grades 1-4.

With the outcome based evaluating I feel that I am able to determine how a student is doing with the more written language, or produced materials they can show me.  Through using these Chromebooks I am able to monitor and track how much my students are doing as long as they are using their board approved username and password.  (The more I think of what I want the more I feel like I'm becoming Big Brother in Wells' distopian world). With using the technology I have at my disposal I am able to ensure those students who struggle with organization will at least have a searchable document when I am helping them, also those students who are functioning at a higher level will be capable of extending their learning and dive deeper into topics of their own inspiration.

When looking at the question of why use/teach with technology, I am thinking about Postman's article we read in an earlier class around technological change.  Reflecting on that article we need to be reminded (especially about his stance on the purpose behind the technology)

 there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not.  
As long as we are focus on using technology to improve the quality education for our students, it is of benefit.  If we are choosing to use technology because it is easier for the educator, or it is only 'more engaging', but not providing evidence of improved understanding, then we need to re-evaluate how/why we are using this technology.

I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks of this class, as I am working on a document, and my final blog post as to how I plan on implementing the BYOD within my classroom, along with what specific apps and tools I plan on utilizing to provide a paperless classroom next school year.

Finding some interesting things along the way…

Over the past year, I’ve been analyzing and learning about tech in the classroom from different angles and perspectives. Today’s post however, will take on a somewhat different and more flexible approach, as I’ll be spending my time discussing some of the interesting finds I’ve come across over the past few weeks in my directed reading course.

Oh hey, check what I found!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Tuesday night’s class was very helpful to me because the discussions that came up during the meeting brought to my attention some aspects of tech I failed to even think about or address in my blog a few weeks back. The discussions we had in class definitely allowed me to connect more of the dots to some of the questions I had asked myself in my previous posts (take this one for example).

Dr. Alec Couros joined us this week and mentioned a few interesting facts relating to tech availability.

Dr. Couros shared an article with us that ended up bringing some interesting things to my attention.

Big Settlement For Los Angeles School District Over iPad Controversy

“The L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) bought approximately 40,000 iPads at $768 each, and pre-loaded with software from Pearson, a major textbook publisher and online educational tool creator. But while all iPads and mobile Apple devices use its iOS software, the problem wasn’t with Apple but Pearson’s product that teachers complained was scarce on content, riddles with bugs, and difficult to use.”

In this example, we see how even purchasing state-of-the-art tools can result in some major issues. The L.A. school district bought these devices with the intention of having them perform one simple task. Although Pearson is partly to blame here, this example shows us that we can’t always rely on tech for the answers and solutions were looking for. In this case, the school district dumped A LOT of money into this investment only to encounter these major issues of functionality and reliability.

One of the other interesting points that came out of our meeting on Tuesday related to attaining tech and other digital tools for the classroom. For my blog post last week, I brought up how we could apply for technology grants or seek outside funding to purchase class computers, laptops or tablets.

My classmate Kyle however, mentioned how some districts actually have rules and restrictions relating to these types of classroom purchases. I learned that the reason for which teachers are sometimes restricted or flat-out denied permission to make these types of purchases is in part because school boards are often unable to repair or provide support to devices as they may sometimes differ from the “universal” brand or model that they are trained to repair and support. What this means is that for school boards, having teachers bring new types of personal devices (primarily laptops and tablets) can lead to more problems than anything else.

Denied!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Let’s take the RBE tech support for example. For them, bringing in devices that they haven’t worked on could potentially require additional training and additional costs (warrantees, software issues, machines that are more vulnerable to viruses, etc.). For a school board, this isn’t necessarily solving any problems, but causing new ones instead. This could potentially lead to you not being able to do much with that grant you were just given by Best Buy. Bummer.

Dang!
SOURCE: GIPHY

This actually reminded me a lot about the L.A. school district article, as it addresses some of the same issues regarding support and functionality.

This also led me to think about how obsolete our tech becomes in a matter of years. The following article got me thinking a lot about the quality of the tech we are providing our students:

BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century?

If we’re going to provide students with tech, it should be of best quality, otherwise why bother? Furthermore, if we aren’t going to provide students with tech, and we’re taking the BYOD approach, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves what type of tech our students are bringing into the classroom?

Failing to realize that not everyone is bringing top-of-the-line devices to school could result in issues with compatibility and functionality. Students from higher income families bringing in brand-new state-of-the-art tech can be problematic for families that don’t have the means to afford these types of tools.

This might not cut it….
SOURCE: GIPHY

I’ve actually experienced these issues myself, as some students will often bring the latest Apple phone and products, while others will still be using older IPhone 4 models. At first this might not seem too serious of an issue until we start running newer software and apps on these devices that simply don’t work or are not supported by older Apple products/models. This often results in students not being able to use their personal tools and devices the same way a student with a “better” device could. This brings up all sorts of questions, whether it’s about student equity or the fact that simply bringing a device to class doesn’t always cut it.

This article definitely got me thinking about the whole “quality” argument. I mean… what is quality?

SOURCE: GIPHY

You may have bought the most powerful laptops in the market, but how long will this tech put up until it becomes completely obsolete? In connection to my previous point about tech support for devices that may differ from those your school board may use, this could further lead to these devices breaking down and becoming utterly useless due to lack of support.

Please stay on hold while one of our highly trained representatives gets back to you
SOURCE: GIPHY

Whether the tech isn’t being maintained or updated, these devices have a short lifespan and become difficult to use the older they get, especially if we aren’t actively taking care of them.

Another interesting point that came from our discussions brought up the quality and functionality of our products. We brought up netbooks, and whether or not they are that useful at all, or if they’re simply glorified web-surfing devices. Although these devices are excellent tools for simple word processing projects and research, they are unable to run legitimate PC or APPLE software. If you are wanting to do some photo or video editing, or you’re wanting to try your hand at some 3-D animation or coding, you’re not really going to get too far with these things. The computing power is nowhere near as adequate as it should be to be running those types of programs.

Feelings of inadequacy
SOURCE: GIPHY

This led to another interesting point: if these devices are unable to provide its users with an adequately powerful and up-to-date creative tool, what’s the point of really using these things?

I’ve actually experienced a few issues relating to these very same problems in my class.

This fall, I had my class create video artifacts for their health projects. Students were given the opportunity to use digital tools on the Chromebooks we have at our school. A lot like some of the video artifacts I’ve done for my previous tech classes, I showed the students how to use a couple of the tools I’ve used to create my own videos.

Although my students ended up creating some cool videos, the process was actually very tedious and frustrating for them and myself.

First of all, the tech is not strong enough to process the large volumes of data that usually go into video editing. Files were taking fifteen minutes to transfer from their phones to the computers. Kids were unable to use certain files, and converting them was taking so long, that many of them ended up having to do these things at home on their own computers. To make matters worse, since so many students were connected to the internet, and there was such a high volume of data taking up the bandwidth, even the WIFI was cutting out.

What this actually ended up leading my class to do was use their own devices to create their videos. Most of them have IPhones, which means most of them were able to do their assignments on apps such as iMovie. Luckily for me, everyone had a device (and ones that were capable of performing these tasks with relative ease).

Watch your step!
SOURCE: GIPHY

So how useful were the netbooks in this case? Not really to be honest, which is a little frustrating considering these tools have replaced the laptops we had a few years ago. I understand why school boards often make these types of purchases, but it is a little frustrating to realize they can’t do some of the things you’d hope they’d be able to do.

I really appreciate the discussions we’ve been having in class, it’s definitely opened me up to new angles to some common issues we experience when working with tech in a classroom. In the coming weeks, I am hoping to make more connections to my area of focus and draw more conclusions from some of the observations I’ve been making.
Thanks for reading everyone, have a great week!

Dre


Battling the Cons of Technology

My focus this week was on how to effectively find solutions for the Cons that I found last week.  My major frustration was around the disparity of access when it comes to technology within my room.  Many of the sources I read talked about the variety of students not having technology for mostly socioeconomic factors, but in my experience when dealing with 12-14 year olds there is often a set family values around technology.  Whether it is due to responsibility, protection, desire, or a litany of other reasons for a child to have or not have their own device.

What I have found this week revolves around the importance of utilizing technologies within the classroom and the benefits behind them.  I am hoping that with this type of knowledge the parents/caregivers of the students will be more open to sending a their children to school with a device.


When reading a paper on a 1 to 1 initiative that took place in Michigan the authors found that:
In looking at student benefits, the FTL students reported that the laptops helped them learn more and made them more interested in learning.  Most students were confident that use of the laptops would increase their future work opportunities. (Lowther, 2012, p. 27)
When looking at the engagement of students as an educator that is one of the most important pieces for me.  If a student is engaged and interested in what they are doing they will get more out of that particular assignment or reading.  What becomes difficult for the educator is how we assess the learning of each student.

Another reason for incorporating technology within the classroom is to help our students prepare for their future.  With the every changing landscape of education and the fast paced nature of our society now we need to give our students every opportunity to be working with the potential tools they will be required to master within their careers.
“Learning is complex work and like other forms of skilled and technical work it requires that the person performing the job understand and be comfortable with his or her tool set.” Alberta Teacher 2011
The document this quote is from is the BYOD Guide from Alberta.  They go on to share some constructive points as to why BYOD is valuable and important.

Alberta BYOD Guide pg. 4, 2012
Continuing with the idea that technology is the way of the future... (sorry it that was cliche). We need to be teaching differently.  I've talked about collaboration in some of my previous posts from prior classes, and I am trying to teach students how to work collaboratively, but it is a process.  Dre, one of my colleagues/peers, shared an article around how effectively students are utilizing the technology within their studies.  A majority of the evidence showed that students were not very proficient with the tools that they are supposed to be using.   Although the authors did share this sentiment:

Photo Credit: ImgFlip
“High levels of smartphone use by teens often have a detrimental effect on achievement, because teen phone use is dominated by entertainment, not learning, applications.” (Barnwell 2016). But perhaps this is a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” dilemma. Teens were never asked or charged with using smart phones for learning so their lived experience and reality command a different use. Well-orchestrated and deliberate learning applications for smartphone use in classrooms could change this.



Photo Credit: Teachers With a Sense of Humor
Within my post last week I also focused on the idea that BYOD can cause unwanted distractions within the classroom.  Now if you are an educator in this day in age you can be certain that there is always something that will be the next big thing in you classroom.  I personally do not believe that technology is the only thing that is going to "distract" our students from getting their work done.

I believe Liz posted this article on dealing with digital distraction within the classroom.  This is a great way to teach moderation and when technology is appropriate or not.  Just because we plan on using technology to help our students learn does not mean that it will always be the most effective mode of transportation for the information we are attempting to share with the kids.  Take this article on the spinners as an example.  While the concept behind the spinners is meant to aid certain students, but when they are being used improperly they have become a major distraction for many if not the majority of classrooms in every building.  I have seen the same thing within my classroom when I use technology.  If I am not using the tech in a meaningful, productive, and engaging manner, the students are very quick to using the "tool" improperly.

Finally I leave you with this idea.
Today’s path–a breakneck pace through a required curriculum aimed at enabling students to pass cheap bubble tests—is antithetical to the effective use of technology. Instead, students in East Palo Alto, Greenwich, Mumbai, Shanghai and London should be connected, working together on projects to, for example, analyze acidity in rainfall or traffic patterns or election results.  (Technology in Schools: Problems and Possibilities)

If we are going to be using the technology, lets make it beneficial, for the students, while creating and developing the skills that we are attempting to develop for their futures.