Category Archives: EC&I 830

Does Technology in the Classroom Enhance Learning?

This week brought our first Great Ed. Tech Debate with Amanda and Nancy taking on the agree side and Matt and Trevor challenging them on the disagree side. Both teams did an excellent job of arguing their side and I found myself agreeing with points from both teams throughout the entire debate.

Amanda and Nancy argued that technology enhances the 4Cs of 21st Century Skills. These include critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. They added in a 5th skill, connection. Their argument was validated in the examples of how our current remote learning situation is only possible through the connections made with technology. I fully agree with this point. Staying connected during this time is only possible with technology. Being able to communicate with students instantly through platforms like SeeSaw, Google Classroom, and Google Meet is the next best thing to being with them in person. Many teachers have commented that they are able to see a different side in some of their students through remote learning. Students that were shy or extremely quiet in a classroom have now been able to shine through the use of technology. Technology for connection is not new to the pandemic. I was in a grade eight classroom earlier this year and witnessed a group of students working on a project. They told me that one of their classmates was at home sick however, they did not want to miss out on the work period. From their bed at home, the student Facetimed so that they could still be a part of the group. Technology provided that student with the connection that was needed. The power of technology for connection is also incredibly demonstrated in the video Amanda and Nancy shared, The Born Friends.

When we say that technology enhances learning, the term engagement often accompanies that statement. In George Couros’ series, The Myths of Technology, he discusses the common myth that technology equals engagement. Just because we put a computer in front of our students engagement does not magically happen. Like the example Couros shares in his article, I have checked in on many students to see what they were working on. It is very common to find a tab open which is showing a YouTube video, or game which is not at all what the student needed to be doing. With the belief that technology enhances learning, is engagement the carrot we are looking for when we use it? I found this quote from Couros to provide an answer to that question.

With the world now literally at our fingertips, “engagement” should not be the highest bar we set for our students. If we can develop meaningful learning opportunities that empower our students to make a difference, our impact will go beyond their time they spent in our classrooms.

Looking at the other side of this debate, Matt and Trevor provided strong arguments for disagreeing. One point they made was about the amount of screen time students are experiencing between home and school life. How much screen time is too much? It was interesting to read the article The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids is Not What We Expected. The articles discusses how parents in affluent communities are pushing for their children to move towards “screen-free lifestyles”. One parent in the article speaks about the impact that screen time has on her boys’ behaviour. She explains that she would see anger in her son when the screen had to be turned off. So how does that transfer to our classrooms? When students are spending a considerable amount of time on technology at home are we adding to the concerns by providing more screen time at school? Many parents will admit that an iPad or iPhone at times becomes the babysitter at home. This type of use of technology is not transferring well into a school setting. I have seen primary students stop having meltdowns and enter a trance like state when given an iPad. They see the iPad as instant gratification rather than a tool for learning. In some situations based on how an Ipad is used at home, teachers have been unable to use it in the classroom.

The other point that Matt and Trevor made that really spoke to me was their claim that technology doesn’t mean good pedagogy. Technology at best only amplifies the pedagogical methods of educators. It can make good teachers better but it can make bad ones worse. While this is a bold statement to make, it is one that speaks truth. Knowledge of the SAMR model is key address this issue.

The issue I see with technology in the classroom is that many are still at the substitution level. How do we move on from this? While stakeholders say may say that technology enhances learning and money is spent on equipment is that enough? I don’t believe it is. As I said earlier, putting a computer in front of a student doesn’t cause engagement magically to appear. Well the same is for teachers. You can purchase all kinds of technology and fully equip a classroom but that does not mean modification and redefintion – the two highest levels in the SAMR model are going to occur. Can we continue to accept that some teachers are just not comfortable with using technology? Is that meeting the needs of our students and their needs for the future?

If we want to improve the use of technology in classrooms because we value what it can provide our learners then we need to improve teachers’ skills. The number one reason teachers have for not using technology is that they don’t know how to. Yet we have seen many PD opportunities fall by the wayside in the ever increasing tightening of budgets. So if we believe in the use of technology, where does the responsibility fall? Should school divisions be doing more to develop technology skills in their teachers? Should teachers take on their own learning and seek put PD opportunities? How do we move people forward in order to keep a better pace with the changes in technology?

So which side did I end up on at the end of the debate? Well, I don’t feel I can simply say that I agree or disagree with the statement. I don’t believe it’s one that can be answered with an either or response. It depends on how the technology is being used. We need to consider the purpose and what levels of the SAMR model are being reached. Only once those questions are answered can we truly say if technology is enhancing learning.

The Great EdTech Debate: Episode 1 – Does Technology Enhance Classroom Learning

In our EC&I 830 course, one of the assignments that we have is to participate in a weekly EdTech debate. This activity is meant to bring enriched conversation regarding topics revolved around the use of technology in education. For the first debate, the two teams debated whether technology enhances learning in the classroom. I started off the debate by wishing both team good luck over twitter. Follow me @MrSkylerHart

Prior to starting the debate, we are asked to vote on our own opinion of the topic being discusses. The follow image depicts the date from those results.

PreVote: 89.3% in favour, 10.7% opposed

Agree

We saw @amandajebrace and @NSmith advocate about how technology enhances learning in the classroom. To begin, focused on the point that technology transcends the classroom. Nancy explained that the use of technology now allows us to open up our classroom to new learning opportunities, and for alternative methods of learning. She stated that technology allows us to engage students and deepen the learning. The alternative point was that technology is a great way to connect with others. Amanda discusses the 4C’s in 21st century learning, which you can read further about here. Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication are the 4C’s, but the argument was made for a fifth C to be added. Connection. We can use technology to connect the students to the material we are learning.

The 5th C… Connection

There are multiple times throughout the day where I have used technology to help students enhance their learning. Whether is be through watching documentaries, using Desmos for online graphing, or completing online research, technology is something that helps students out. But this only works when I direct students in how to use the technology they are using appropriately and effectively. Without sufficient reasoning behind the use of technology, the reduce the enhancement it brings to the classroom.

Disagree

On the alternative approach, @trevorkerr7 and @MattBresciani argued that technology does not enhance learning in the classroom. The main point that these gentlemen was that technology creates a distraction for students. Trevor provides examples such as using social media, listening to music, playing online games, and watching noneducational videos on YouTube. Matt added that the use of technology in schools bombard students with screen time. With the increase of technology in today’s society, more and more people are exposed to can cause many learners to become dependent on technology, resulting in an addition to technology. So lets MEGA (MAKE EDUCATION GREAT AGAIN).

Technology Does Not Enhance Learning

I agree with Matt and Trevor that technology can be a distraction in the classroom, but I would suggest that it is a distraction when there is nothing that monitors the use of the technology in the first place. As a teacher, it is our responsibility to make sure that students are using the technology for the intended reason it is meant to be used for.

The Results

PostVote: 58.3% in favour, 41.7% opposed

Conclusion

In all, I am am not shocked that a majority of voters still believe that technology enhances learning in a classroom. However, I will give credit to Matt and Trevor. Although they did not have the majority of voters, they were able to convince 31% of voters to change their opinions on technology. I believe that the underlying fact to this debate stems the term efficiently. How efficient are we with incorporating technology into the classroom. Both side admitted that technology in the classroom only enhances learning when it is embedded appropriately, and with a purpose. Those who try to incorporate technology into the classroom as a part of a list of things they need to complete are not using technology to its greatest potential. Curtis Bourassa mentioned that technology needed to have a purpose behind it… it is a vehicle to learn. Technology can transport a students ability to learn, but without proper direction and teaching, a student can be guided down the wrong path.

For a full recap of the entire debate, fell free to watch the video below.

Great EdTech Debate: Technology in the classroom enhances learning

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First of all I would like to say THANK YOU to my peers for the great debate. Amanda, Nancy, Trevor and Matt certainly set the bar extremely high which makes me feel very nervous.

The more I think about technology in the classroom, the more I become uncertain about how positive the use of technology is in our classrooms. I grew up with absolutely zero technology and life seemed to be a lot safer. I feel that technology brought so much with itself, both good and bad.

I do see that the life of an educator who is not familiar with using technology became a lot more stressful. Even if teachers are tech savvy, incorporating technology in an effective way takes a lot of time and effort. I absolutely agree with Trevor and Matt that technology will not make a teacher into a good educator. As Lisa mentioned, we engage our students through building relationships and knowing our students. I certainly see all the negatives the existence of technology brings into our classrooms: such as feeling frustrated when struggling with technology, and I am thinking of our newcomer families, and refugee families who do not have experience using devices. Technology often causes distraction as well as adds to the already fairly high daily screen time. And we haven’t even touched on the negative effects technology can cause as a result of being used by our ‘digital natives’ who are lacking the knowledge of how to be responsible digital citizens. I do not believe that phones and technology in all should be banned from our schools, but we need to take the time and teach our students how to use them safely and appropriately.

I would say, in general, I am pro technology, that is why I applied for the Master’s Certificate Program in Educational Technology. Whenever I had to sit down in front of a laptop, I felt overwhelmed and stressed out. I had no idea how to do anything on a laptop beside searching on Google or Youtube. I certainly would not want my students to feel the same way. It is a horrible feeling. I feel it is my job to help my students become familiar with using technology. I also think technology can make learning fun and engaging. As Dean pointed out during the class discussion, Kahoot and Mentimeter are great tools for engaging the students who never put up their hands. Most of the EAL students are shy and they have fear of being judged. By the time they form their answers, the class has moved on to a different topic. Kahoot and Mentimeter are fun ways to practice all the tricky grammatical forms of the English language that take years to sink in. They also give an immediate picture of student understanding of certain concepts that the teacher can address right away.

Our current move to supplemental online learning is another proof that technology does help us reach our students. Especially during these hard times, technology serves as a great vehicle for learning. Although I would be a lot happier to have the opportunity to listen to my students read out loud in person, Seesaw made it possible the other day and it literally brought tears to my eyes. I have to say that I am loving Seesaw more and more every day. I can actually see this as a great tool to reach my students while travelling back to their home countries for very long periods of time, providing an opportunity to communicate, that Amanda and Nancy referred to as the 5th C. The record feature is a wonderful tool where students can practice reading aloud and hearing their own pronunciation with endless retakes if necessary. I feel excited, even though I am just at the beginning of becoming familiar with great tools and ways to use technology in a purposeful way.

My take away from the debate is to focus on a balanced approach when it comes to technology use and always have a purpose behind it. As George Couros says ” If I get into a plane and all it does is drive me from point A to point B, not only is this not a transformational use, we know there are better tools for doing that specific job. Only when we choose to fly in the plane does that technology become transformational.  It is on people to use technology to it’s fullest potential.”

Thanks for stopping by,

Melinda 🙂

EC&I 830 Post #2- Debate Reflection #1

An excellent first debate was had tonight between Nancy Smith, Amanda Brace, Trevor Kerr, and Matt Bresciani

Before I dive into the literature that each team provided, I quickly want to talk about how much I enjoyed this format.  Nancy and Amanda argued that technology in the classroom enhances learning while Trevor and Matt countered that argument.

After an initial pre-vote where everyone votes on what side of this topic they were aligned with, the debates opened with pre-recorded opening statements.  Both entries were strong, with Nancy and Amanda taking the narrative approach while Trevor and Matt had a format that was similar to an attack ad and hate a lot of statements refuting possible points that Nancy and Amanda made in their opening statement.  There was some time to prepare rebuttals after that, and both teams used their maximum of three minutes to rebut. Then, the class opened into a group discussion and questions for the two debate teams.  Once more both sides went into breakout rooms and finally delivered their closing arguments.

This was all facilitated nicely in Zoom.  I like the functionality that breakout rooms can provide in something like this.

I should state that my prevote was that I disagreed with the statement that “Technology Enhances Learning.”  It is simply too broad a statement.  Technology had the potential to enhance learning, absolutely, but it also has the potential to be detrimental to learning.

Matt and Trevor’s arguments were good ones.  They addressed risks and side effects of technology use.  This study, based in China, noted that student memorization was adversely impacted because of technology use and that students were also beginning to develop addictions to this technology.  The study also suggested that it was IT companies and policymakers that were leading the push for technology in classrooms, not educators.  In the debate itself, Trevor and Matt suggested that perhaps Big Data has motive to get as much technology into the classroom as possible.  Trevor and Matt other article was “The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids Is Not What We Expected” — This is an interesting one in that some Silicon Valley-types are attempting to get their children away from screen time in schools and are instead showing a preference for play-based schools.  Matt referenced that idea that because using technology reduces that cognitive load on a person’s brain that learning is perhaps worse when we rely on technology.

I really enjoy Trevor and Matt’s unique presentation style, and for guys that are quite heavily invested in educational technology, both as members of the Regina Catholic School Division’s Connected Educator program, they did an excellent job refuting points and keeping in character during the debate.

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Not a photo of Matt and Trevor, though I appreciate that they dressed up kind of like the Blues Brothers for their debate.

Nancy and Amanda’s presentation was narrative, and took cues from Mike Wesch’s Teaching like a YouTuber: Off-Camera Online Teaching Options. Their literature an article challenging myths about technology use by George Couros, an article that was a bit of a rebuttal to Matt and Trevor’s Silicon Valley point, and a couple of worthwhile videos to check out.

Nancy and Amanda’s main point was that technology can keep teachers and students connected.  They mentioned how technology can give a voice to those who are shy or who can feel marginalized in a traditional classroom.  They also highlighted how technology can deepen understanding and can push the classroom and students’ audiences beyond the walls of a school building.

Though my overall opinion on this topic did not change purely because of how broad the statement was, both groups did an excellent job.  I think that overall we can be too eager to embrace tech.  There are equity issues, troubleshooting issues, the issue of adequate training for staff and students.  All of these issues can up during our discussion on Tuesday night, and as a result many of my classmates changed their opinion from the pre-vote. Many that first agreed with the prompt had changed to the disagree side.

This format and the quality of the content on Tuesday night has me very excited for the next round of debates.

Debate #1: Does Technology Enhance Classroom Learning?

On Tuesday we started the great Edtech debate. Nancy and Amanda arguing that Technology in the classroom enhances learning, whereas Trevor and Matt arguing against the same claim.  Both of the videos were creative and engaging.  Kudos to both duos for setting the bar so high.

Prior to the debate, I would side very much so on the pro-technology side of the argument.  I believe that there needs to be a balance of technology in the classroom.  Technology needs to have a purpose, it cannot be the goal.  Technology is the vehicle for learning.   Being such a pro-technology person and teacher I was excited to hear the opposing argument.

Nancy and Amanda brought up some great points in the video.  Some of the main points that resonated with me include.  The aspect of connecting when a physical connection is taken away.  Currently, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This has changed our daily lives.  I am curious if this happened forty or fifty years ago, would the lack of technology, resulting in a lack of connection, lead to further mental health problems? The ability to connect is the 5th C that technology allows us to have communication with others that would otherwise be unsafe, or impossible in the past. Nancy and Amanda highlighted that the best part of online learning is that it can happen anywhere and at any time.  We have the ability to collaborate with one another, and we don’t even need to be in the same place.  With technology, schools can go beyond the traditional walls and reach a larger audience, which provides more engagement for our students.

Nancy and Amanda shared an inspiration video that shows the importance of connection.  This video highlights how technology can bring people together.  It also further promotes the ability for us to reach a larger audience.  Imagine the connections that we can have in the classroom if we connect with other classrooms globally.  We have so much that we can learn from each other.

Matt and Trevor did bring up many good counterpoints. Many classroom teachers use unnecessary technology in education.  In this claim often I see teachers using technology for the purpose of using technology.  Your finished your assignment, here is an iPad to consume the rest of the class.  Furthermore, Trevor and Matt explain this technology does not have any pedagogical value if used without purpose.  In addition, Trevor and Matt include that screentime and technology addition are downfalls of technology that can harm student’s wellbeing.

In the article, The Digital Gap Between the Rich and Poor Is Not What We Expected, it is highlighted an interesting perspective of the need to go back to screen-free lifestyles.  The article brings up the new digital divide, stating that more affluent families with children will experience less screen time than those of poorer and middle-class families.  The argument states that there is a concern that children will not know how to interact with other people, and the need to revert to play-based learning.

Within the class discussion, I found some key points that were being shared.  We discussed that often with technology, schools and school divisions do not have the infrastructure, time, or money to provide meaningful training for the apps and programs that they use.  Alec brought up an excellent point suggesting that 50% split between hardware and training.  I shared in the class that I find that technology can provide a voice for those who are more unwilling to share in the classroom setting.  Jill countered my claim stating that she is finding the opposite.  She found in online classroom students are more likely to sit and be passive learners not willing to share as often as in the classroom. Melinda brought up an excellent point, often these tools can reduce some of the anxieties that students have.  A tool like Flipgrid could allow students multiple chances to redo their response until it was something that they were comfortable with sharing.

Another post that Nancy and Amanda directed us to is George Couros‘s Myths of Technology Series specifically the myth That Technology Equals Engagement.  I found this interesting as it gives validity to both sides of the debate.  Often we hear that students are so engaged when they are using technology.  As educators, we need to recognize the difference between “engagement” and “novelty”.  As educators, we need to view this from a different lens. We need to move from engaging students to empowering them.  George highlights the difference between compliance, engagement, and empowerment.

  • Compliance – Do this because I told you.
  • Engagement – Do this because you are excited.
  • Empowerment – Do this because you have the power to do something meaningful for yourself.

In conclusion, technology needs to be used as a tool FOR learning, and must have a purpose. The debate was able to highlight both sides of the argument.  Being so pro-technology in the classroom I believe it is important educators try to understand why some teachers are reluctant to use the technology in the classroom.  Trevor and Matt did a great job of highlighting these pieces.

My mind has slightly changed, I will always promote the use of technology in responsible ways in the classroom, but will be more mindful when I do.

I leave you with this quote from George’s series of myths.

If we can develop meaningful learning opportunities that empower our students to make a difference, our impact will go beyond their time they spent in our classrooms.  Technology alone will never provide this.

– George Couros

Creatively Making Connections through Communication Equals a Winning Formula for Debate #1

My first attempt at making an animation in power-point. Thank you Amanda and Nancy for sharing the link
Teaching like a YouTuber: Off-Camera Online Teaching Option
SPOILER ALERT – the WordPress free site doesn’t allow you to post video! So here is an image of my animation. Trust me it works! It is a very basic fly-in of each letter, but hey, it’s a start!

The Great Ed Tech Debate got off to a super start. We started off with the pro-side; Amanda and Nancy who wowed us with their emotional plea on how technology has the power to basically save the world. These debaters played on our sympathies complete with emotional background music. It seemed almost put-on until you realized that this really was Amanda’s story, possibly somewhat sensationalized, but yet very telling. This team shared important messages on how we need to use technology to teach our students about being valuable digital citizens, that not all screen time is equal, and that it is important to be critical thinkers when using technology. By sharing Amanda’s personal story, we were sold on how technology saves the day when a teacher is injured and recovering, and in our current pandemic crisis.

Not to be outdone, Matt and Trevor came out swinging with their political parody “Make Education Great Again”. They made valid points on why technology is hurting our society against a dramatic musical beat. It was a vintage slander campaign against their opponents ironically created by two people with obvious technical ability. This humourous opening statement helped set the stage for what proved to be a strong debate. Matt and Trevor had a counter argument for every point made by the pro-team. They highlighted workload intensification for teachers, the lack of creativity used when people depend on technology, the loss of human connection, stating that we are not teaching students, but creating robots, the loss of communication to games and gimmicks, and posed the question, “Who is behind the push for technology?”

Although the post-vote showed a sway in favour of the con-side, the pro-side still came out ahead. Not all teachers require technology to be engaging and to empower students, however it is definitely clear that in our current circumstance technology is a necessity. Technology gives accessibility to students, and as long as there is a purpose behind the technology, learning can be transformative. In the end, it was decided that relationships between students and teachers are what is most important and a balance of technology can aid in any lesson.

PERSONAL CONNECTION

In our current remote learning context, we see a whole range of technology use in our staff. We are all using Microsoft Teams as our learning platform which has been very effective in organizing and communication with our students. Some of our best teachers in the classroom are struggling online, and others who may have had challenges with classroom management, for example, are rocking it in the online world. It is a very humbling experience for many of our staff who feel like they have lost their ability to connect. All of our teachers are doing their best, but their experience with technology is widespread and it shows in how they are either thriving or surviving in a remote environment. Although I do agree that technology can be transformative, it is evident that the 50/50 model focus on technology Alec recommended is necessary (50% hardware/software, 50% PD). The trouble is, when you are thrown into a new world dependent on technology, you are ultimately playing catch-up.

The challenge moving forward for administrators has to do with teaching assignments and the unknown. Some of our best teachers in terms of content and relationships are not translating online – is there enough time in the next 5 weeks to be transformative in their teaching strategies to face a possible online or hybrid start-up in the fall? Will our summers be filled with even more PD? All I know is that I could not have picked a more perfect class to take this term. Thanks everyone – I learn something new every day!

Technology in the Classroom Enhances Learning….Or Does It?

no way abandon thread GIFSource

I was floored by the debates that were presented today and definitely scared of the work I have to do with my partner, Jocelyn, to prepare for our argument next week.  However, I was so glad that Matt and Trevor as well and Amanda and Nancy set the bar high for what the rest of the semester is going to look like for our debates and discussions.  Unfortunately, I now have to become an advertising marketer in order to sell my argument….but I can add that to my list of things to do.

My first opinion from reading the debate topic was that I agreed.  Technology continues to be a tool that is utilized in schools, perhaps not always effectively or seamlessly, but the benefits outweigh the cons from what I’ve experienced.  However, I’m the type of person up for a challenge and looking to enhance my teaching practices and approaches, especially as our classrooms continue to grow in diversity.

Nancy and Amanda had some valid points to their side of the argument; technology allows us to:

  • access the 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity +connection)
  • engage students and deepen the learning
  • create meaning

However, Trevor and Matt did a bang up job of looking at the reverse side of the argument, for which I started to think more about.  This included the idea that technology:

  • is a distraction in the classroom due to temptations not school related (social media, music, games, YouTube viewing)
  • doesn’t mean good pedagogy; “it can make good teachers better but it can make bad ones worse”
  • bombards students with screentime which adds to what they already engage with at home

Bitmoji ImageI did appreciate the discussion that was had after the arguments were presented.  Kalyn made a valid point that if technology is implemented without a purpose, it makes it worse and is likely not enhancing learning.  Curtis reminded us that technology can give students a voice.  Jill identified that some students are muted by technology as it is not the same in person connectedness, as well as technology requires troubleshooting when things go awry, such low battery and updating of applications.

As I listened, I jotted down some thoughts (using technology as my penmanship is chicken scratch and cramps my hands these days) that made me more or less sit on the fence with regards to this argument.  Technology  in the classroom CAN enhance learning when:

  • there is a purpose!
  • there is consistent usage of specific tools and applications
  • all students have access to technology tools that benefit them as a learner for their specific needsBitmoji Image
  • technology can transfer to different settings in the real world and even beyond educational environments
  • students/staff are trained and supported continually as to how to use the technology
  • tech issues don’t arise, batteries are fully charged, updates have been made, wifi (when applicable) is accessible and not spotty

Conversely, technology in the classroom DOES NOT enhance learning when:

  • it is not a transferable tool outside of the classroom into the real world
  • it is used to replace teaching
  • it is used to solve behaviours of studentsBitmoji Image
  • not all students have access
  • it is used for entertainment only
  • there is no follow up/feedback/assessment provided to students for their purpose

View, Field, Meadow, Fence, Sit Kermit
Thanks again to our first great debate.
What side of the fence do you sit on?

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The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER ONE – Does technology enhance learning?

Tonight we had our very first round of The Great Edtech Debate! The topic: Does Technology Enhance Learning?

First thoughts- wow oh wow.

Amanda and Nancy came out swinging with a thoughtful video that detailed a personal narrative. They were in charge of arguing in agreement with the topic. Throughout their narrative (the story of Amanda’s injury and her use of technology to continue her work) they introduced their main argument: technology enhances our ability to make connections, and connections help us to learn more authentically, and innovatively .

Next came Trevor and Matt’s opening argument in disagreement with the topic. It was a truly interesting experience to listen to two people I know to be proponents of technology in the classroom argue against the notion that it enhances learning. Their showmanship? Incredible. Their execution (right down to the matching zoom background and suits)? Flawless. Their points? Noteworthy. That being said I truly believe they were struggling to argue their own side, owing to the MEGA (Make Education Great Again) stance they took – fake tweets and all. It might just be my jaded 2020 opinion, but if you’re doctoring tweets- you might have a tough argument to present. Their main thesis regarding students’ use of technology in place of critical thinking was truly interesting.

At the beginning of class we voted, and it turns out our class was pretty convinced that technology does in fact enhance learning.

The breakdown at the beginning of class (Agree is Blue – Disagree is Red)

After the arguments, then rebuttals by both sides (which were amazingly succinct and only the slightest bit personal) we broke into a class discussion regarding the topic.

My biggest takeaways from the conversation:

  • Many of us are considering technology to mean individual applications or specific learning management systems. Of the two the biggest criticisms raised were troubleshooting problems inaccessibility for students of various age ranges and abilities.
  • We acknowledge technology to be a tool, not the what of learning but rather the how.
  • Even those arguing against technology’s ability to enhance learning admit that technology provides opportunities for those in vulnerable populations that did not exist in the past.

After some closing arguments, in which both sides readdressed their main points, we took another vote. The result? Surprising!

The breakdown at the end of class (Agree is Blue – Disagree is Red)

Several people voted that their minds had been changed by the discussion! While the arguments by the presenters were playful (and at times sensationalist) they each highlighted enough new and interesting information to cause us to reconsider our positions on this issue in contemporary education technology.

Personally, I still feel as though this is a “it depends” issue.

The team arguing in agreement of the topic and their readings reminded me:

  • Technology when implemented in an thoughtful way, as part of a technical pedagogical approach can be “transformative”.
  • Teaching digital citizenship to children is only possible with an element of role modelling and engagement with personal technology.

The team arguing in disagreement of the topic and their readings reminded me:

  • It’s important for educators not to develop a tech-utopian view of technology. To carefully assess and balance the risks and rewards or educational technology before diving straight into a strategy.
  • While Media literacy is an essential skill in the 21st century educational landscape- a balance with traditional literacy must be achieved.

I am so thankful for the experience my peers provided me with tonight, to question my own assumptions and biases and examine the complexities of issues so relevant to today’s teaching and learning.

My life during the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has a dramatic impact on the way I interact or approach things in my life. Family time, friends’ gatherings, education, shopping, cooking, relaxing and work are all sort of things are taking different means and shapes.  We are not at the end of this wave of change yet. I think there will be more change to come as we do things more “remotely.”

The usage of technology for me has dramatically increased in the past two months. Like everyone else I have to find alternatives virtual digital tools/ solutions for things I used to do.

Pixabay License
Free for commercial use

At work: Zoom is the main app I use to communicate with my team or department. Zoom is used to support instructors at the UofR by providing daily drop-in sessions to answer their pedagogical or technical questions.  My team and I supported tens of instructors, hosted many webinars and recorded many short instructional videos.  Before COVID-19, I rarely met those instructors.  Email was the dominant tool for those two months ago.  With the change, I get to remotely meet the instructors. This is where Zoom shines as it provides a larger window to see, listen to and interact with humans than email does.  This is a positive change overall.

Moodle is another technology tool that I have to dig dipper in after all university classes moved to remote delivery. This increased the number of courses/ instructors my team and I support.  We get way many more questions and ideas of how instructors would like to deliver their class materials. For example, the typical practice of some instructors in a particular field of study did not conceive teaching remotely a couple of months ago. Now they do. This added new challenges. My team and I had to think of novel ways to accommodate such fields of study.  I have to admit I had to go through a steep learning curve of how to control Moodle more. I learn something new every day either from instructors’ questions or from novel information and resources that became available to us.

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At home and personally, I had to get familiar with Google Meet and Microsoft Teams as these are the video conferencing tools my kids use at their schools. I use Khan Academy and Youtube to support their learning process. Facetime and Messenger are the two apps I use to communicate with my family back in Egypt. We have Zoom hooked up to our smart TV in the main living area of the house.  We use this configuration to talk to my in-laws in Toronto and include them in our daily activities. Seeing people on a larger screen while moving around adds a bit of a human touch to the call. My daughter is playing online chess/cards with her grandparent in Toronto to keep them both entertained during the lockdown. I will try I get my workout either by walking outside or join the virtual exercise room by a trainer I used to attend her classes. I will try the spell your name workout that Daina mentioned in her blog. I use the public library free online services to read some books or watch documentaries on Kanopy

I mostly do my grocery shopping online nowadays if I find a time slot that isn’t 10 days away:). I am most impressed and happy by the purchase history tracking provided by the PC optimum card. Grocery shopping is now easier and quicker. The app saves my purchasing history and recommends similar products based on that. I created a Paypal account to have safer and smoother transactions while shopping online. We see a lot of delivery guys leaving things at our doorsteps. Twitter and Instagram are becoming part of my daily technology usage routine as well.

I check Pinterest daily for new recipes and cooking inspiration as there is more time to cook right now. We are planning to build our deck and finish our basement during the summer so I am sure we will be using youtube a lot for this. Do you have any recommendations for resources to start with?

I am really happy with the family time we have. We have each other 24/7 which I really appreciate. However, I miss our typical normal life. I miss driving my kids to their activities and watch them. I miss hanging out with friends at a coffee shop or restaurant. I hope we all get back to our normal life soon!