Category Archives: ECI 833 Foundations of Ed Technology

Summary of Learning!

Hi everyone,

Thank you for a tremendous summer session. To see some of my highlights from this course, please check out the video below! But, because being concise is not my strong suit, see below for specific highlights from my peers’ blogs that really resonated with me and inspired me to make a commitment to my teaching practice in the future! Your deep insights and sound practice throughout the blogs really inspired me! Have a great rest of your summer!!!

Week #4: Assistive Technologies- The John Stockton of Educational Tools

Option 2: What technology and/or methods have you used/could you use to make your instruction (whether Face-to-Face, blended, or online) more accessible to your students? How might these techniques relate to philosophies and theories of learning?

I am a huge NBA fan.  And to add some context, I was bred in the competition of 1990’s basketball.  Give me NBA on NBC on a Saturday with Michael Jordan about to do something mesmerizing with Bob Costas calling the play by play and I was a happy camper.  There was something about those basketball games that showed me a little bit about life- the power of teamwork, that work ethic was paramount in putting the best version of yourself on the floor to compete, that teams needed all players to contribute their part to achieve the end goal. 

While cheering the Chicago Bulls onto their second three-peat, I also took notice of John Stockton.  (I swear this analogy is going somewhere).  John Stockton is the All-Time Assist leader in the NBA’s history dishing out 15,806 “dimes” (as the kids would say these days).  Watching the way he saw the floor, set people perfectly up with a pass that no one else saw coming, the way he knew what his teammate needed to be placed in a position where he was at his best was amazing.  Not amazing enough to deter me from cheering for the Bulls, but amazing, nonetheless.  Fast forward a few years, and as a teacher, I can once again see the correlation with John Stockton’s assists and teaching.

What John Stockton was doing was what great teachers do all the time- he found ways to do what he could to help someone else reach their potential. At the end of the day, that’s what teachers do.  We give students opportunities to shine, we provide opportunities for growth, and it’s our job to “assist” them in that process.  To me, assistive technology is synonymous with teaching.  It is seeing your student making a cut to the hoop and saying, here you go, this will help you!

This week’s presentation by Reid, D’Arcy, Daniel and Janeen helped illustrate ways in which Assistive Technology helps students, potentials of where it can, and how teachers can utilize the platforms they work in to ensure it is inclusive and accessible for all learners.

In my career, some methods that I have used to make instruction more accessible are:

  • Giving choice about what “medium” students use to show their learning
    • Paint a picture
    • Write a song
    • Create a podcast
    • Create a post that could be shared on Social Media
  • Fill in the blank notes while listening to me “lecture” or watching a documentary
  • Adaptive Exams- alternate space to write, matching option in lieu of lists and define, option to respond orally to journal prompts/exams etc.
  • Voice to text and text to voice

After listening to D’Arcy speak about Universal Design for learning I realized that structure aligned with a lot of my practice.  In the article Universal Design for Learning: A Concise Introduction, it states that the goal of Universal Design to “design an inclusive classroom instruction and accessible course materials”.  Further to access the course must provide opportunities for

  • Multiple modes of representation that gives learners a variety of ways to acquire information and build knowledge;
  • Multiple means of student action and expression that provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they have learned; and
  • Multiple modes of student engagement that tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn (Center for Applied Special Technology, 2011c).

Although I am far from perfect in incorporating assistive technology in my spaces, I was happy to see the groundwork is there for me to continue to adapt and utilize technology that allows all learners to thrive in the spaces I am privileged to occupy.

During Reid’s presentation he did a great job of illustrating what Wearable Tech is.  I immediately thought of the microphone I wore around my neck this past year to amplify this voice behind a mask!  But Reid was quick to point out that wearable technology is anything that differentiates learning while providing access to students (Sandall, 2016).  An example he gave during his presentation was of teachers using VR to engage in experiences that are not easily accessible (even outside a Pandemic).  This then led to the notion of filming experiences like Field Trips/lessons that are difficult to replicate.  Filming would allow students who are unable to attend to still participate in the event.  This is an interesting concept that I could see potentially benefit learners.  Perhaps it is a student who is absent, or anxious about the trip.  Filming the trip could also provide an opportunity for students to go home and share the experience with their families further substantiating the connection between school and home.  I believe this concept could help further a constructivist approach when the students return from an event.  If there was an assignment that connected to the event, the student would have to rely on the experience of others and their reflection on it.  By being able to personally engage in the event, even if it is from a screen, there would be the opportunity for personal connection and thus a cognitivist approach.  Of course, privacy of students in attendance would have to be considered in order to ensure LAFOIP parameters are being met.  But with appropriate planning I believe that issue could be mitigated.  One such example of videos available are from Land Based Educator Garrick Schmidt.  He has taken this concept to an incredible level making his lessons accessible and available for students to deeply interact with. 

Janeen’s portion also got me reflecting about the assistive technology I rely heavily on.  Like her, I utilize voice to text and text to voice options.  In an early blog post Janeen spoke about how providing oral feedback to her students allowed students to hear the intonation in her voice, to see her facial expressions and suddenly the feedback became more 3-dimensional.  I have noticed the same thing in my classrooms when I provide oral or in person feedback.  It evolves assessment from a mark on a page, to an interaction that breeds relationship and reciprocity. In my experience, when relationships are at the foundation suddenly asking for curiosity and vulnerability from students in future projects doesn’t seem as intimidating and students begin to take “risks” where they step out of their comfort zones to show their learning.  An assistive technology of text to voice lays the groundwork of a constructivist approach of an “individual creating meaning from their own experiences” by “assuming that transfer can be facilitated by involvement in authentic tasks anchored in meaningful contexts” (Ertmer and Newby, 2013, pg. 55).

The last portion of the presentation I had the pleasure of listening and engaging with was Daniel’s break down of the social and cultural impacts.  I contend this is an incredibly important aspect of utilizing and incorporating assistive technologies in our classrooms.  The quote that stood out to me from a video he showed us was when a young lady who uses a wheelchair said: “If I’m thankful for an accessible bathroom, how am I ever going to be seen as equal”.  She has every right to be thankful, but what shook me was she has even more of a right to have an accessible place to use the washroom! Her gratitude shows that accessibility is something that is still being fought for. Although our society has come a long way in ensuring locations are accessible, we still have way to go.  Daniel pointed out that the Australia Olympics were taken to court for not having a website that is accessible for the visually impaired.  It is important that as a privileged able-bodied person I continue to question and critique the dominant systems and discourses to be proactive in my approaches in my classrooms and schools.

This got me thinking about a Podcast that was talking about accessibility at South by Southwest (SXSW).  SXSW celebrates the convergence of tech, film and music industries (sxsw.com).    In the conversation, people were asking for SXSW to be available online and thus accessible for all people regardless of their ability to travel or access the event for a variety of reasons.  They kept refusing saying it was impossible to make something of this magnitude available online.  It can only be done in person.  Fast forward to the pandemic, and suddenly it was available online.  It reminded me of the lady being thankful for the bathroom- but why does it always take something to happen for equity to be available for differently abled bodies?  That got me thinking to my classroom and something Christina said during this portion- utilizing assistive technology not only aids the students who needs adaptations, it aids all learners.  The catalyst can be a diverse learner, but as an educator, why do I wait for an intervention to be needed prior to implementing it in my spaces?  Good teachers adapt, offer choice, diversify instructional and assessment strategies.  Utilizing assistive technology is another tool in the toolbox to ensure all students have opportunities to thrive.  It is a proactive approach that honors the people that sit in those desks and gives them diverse opportunities to learn, grow and showcase the best versions of themselves.

At the end of the day, that’s what John Stockton would do- set people up to succeed, so that is what I will do too!  It is essential to utilize tools that allow students to engage with the content, to amplify voices, to share learning journeys knowing that all students will benefit from diverse instructional, assessment and technologies in the classroom.  So, moving forward in my classroom, I am going to be more like John Stockton.  And also, Michael Jordan, because any day I can be like MJ is a good day.

Week 3.2 Assessment Practices- The What, Why and How!

Christina, Janelle, Laurie and Ramona did a fantastic job in their presentation showing several assessment tools, discussing the positives and challenges of some of the platforms and tools utilized.  Their presentation and the discussions during it got me thinking about the choices I make to assess.  After reflecting on their presentation, the readings and blogs from my peers it further reiterates the need for intentionality.  To be clear on what is being assessed, why it is being assessed, and how of it being assessed.  Their presentation and readings offered a wonderful opportunity to reflect on best practice.

One thing I noticed the past few years was how online and formative/constructivist assessment greatly aided student learning while simultaneously supporting outcomes.  The groups slide that showcased the positives with constructivist assessment really struck me as that is my goal with lots of assessment in my spaces.

Source: Kampman, Patterson, Ellis, Wagner, Alexson 2021

With digitized feedback I was able to provide ongoing feedback during larger projects or high stakes assignments that helped students modify and adapt their work during the learning process.  This ongoing dialogue and collaboration with myself (after modelled by me with their classmates), helped show that education is not just about summative assessment, learning is an ongoing process.  This shift in focus in my classroom not only helped students’ final marks, it also modelled revisions and ongoing learning throughout the process.  As stated above, after I model the process, I then ask students to provide that type of feedback to each other.  This working relationship between students and our learning communities showed that we can support each other’s learning.  Furthermore, it gave space to show that it is OK to be critical of peer’s work and do so with respect and honesty.  Feedback is not about saying something constructive that enhances their work and evolves thinking.  I found students deeply engaged with the process which allowed them to actively think about what we are doing, how much more deeply we learn.  During the process we often discussed what “good feedback” looked and sounded like.  We discussed what was helpful, or what created roadblocks or insecurities.  We discussed what do we do when we get feedback and how do we ensure we receive it to enhance our learning and not take it personal.  We modelled courageous conversations and my hope is that this not only aids their assignments, but also conversations with future coworkers, bosses, partners and families.  Technology allowed for this type of feedback and back and forth communication which gave me more time to unpack how we go about giving and receiving feedback.

Source: http://www.brenebrown.com

The article Assessing using Learning Technology, Timmis, Broadfoot, Sutherland, and Oldfield (2016) encourage teachers to reflect on the “four C’s” when using technology to enhance a lesson.

  • Ask yourself, does the use of technology allow for increased collaboration or critical thinking opportunities?
  • Are students able to communicate their ideas uniquely and are students able to demonstrate creative thinking?   (Nu-man and Porter). 
  • The structure provided by Nu-man and Porter allows me to further consider my why, how and when to incorporate and also be mindful of who is benefiting from the assessment practice and thus the need to diversify assessment to make sure all learners thrive.

With all that being said, there is a cost for constant and ongoing assessment.  In the article  The importance of digitized feedback and assessment, Cohan cautioned teachers that although this provides meaningful feedback, it is important to be conscious of the give and take of using digitized assessment as it impacts teacher intensification and workload.  The administrative processes and time involved in marking, as well as manual feedback and assessment can significantly add to teacher workloads. It’s also not conducive to a deeper understanding of topics if students aren’t receiving timely feedback in a way which resonates with them, or without the further explanation or context that’s often needed” (Chohan, 2021).  I must be conscious of this consequence when making active decisions of when and how to implement this type of constructivist assessment. It is not meaningful or helpful to receive feedback a week later, nor does it help if my feedback is not meaningful as that detracts from the original reason for providing it.  Furthermore, I must be conscious of the students who are utilizing this process and who it benefits.  I have students who are “good students” and ultimately hear that if they hand something in, they get to keep modifying it until they receive a “good” mark.  Also, I have to be aware of who has access to technology and Wi-Fi at home when collaboration is expected.  If students are not utilizing the ongoing process, it is integral to have conversations as to why they are not.  What is the roadblock?   I have to be aware of who is benefiting from this and thus had to change the way in which I offered this opportunity without it being another mark.  The group did a phenomenal job of structing who is a “good” student and that those who do not fit that dominant discourse will need alternate and adapted assessment strategies that allows them to reap the benefits and the learning.

For a majority of my assessment practices I utilize LMS.  As I have discussed in the Learning Online Post, this allows me to share my content in a single location, embed all materials, videos as well as assessment as students and parents are able to access assignment expectations as well as marking schemes at all times. In terms of assessment practices, I have students working on FlipGrids to share their learning. Students complete Formative checks for understanding.  Engaging in dialogue with their peers through discussion forums to further understand and discuss content.  As shared in the article Assessing using Learning Technology, Timmis, Broadfoot, Sutherland, and Oldfield (2016) echo my love for LMS with the notion that “The LMS allows for transparency amongst all stakeholders in the learning process. Students can access resources and assignments while communicating with their peers and teacher. Parents may monitor student progress while also communicating with the teacher. Often what is communicated in class does not make it home to the parents. The LMS removes this hindrance in communication”.  I have found that to be the case in my experience.  All parties are aware of the expectations and I am able to easily communicate with students and their support systems (parents/guardians/Tutorial teachers and if needed the Student Support team having access to the content). I find this wrap around approach helps all students, but specifically those who need a little more encouragement and explanation through supports provided.

With that being said, although Moodle is available in the division I work for, not all teachers utilize this program.  In fact, in Mike Wolf’s post (he works for the same division I do) he spoke about Moodle being cumbersome.  He stated in a response to my post singing it’s praises: “I’ve always wanted to explore Moodle more in-depth, but the learning curve/time spent to do it well has always deterred me”.  Mike is an avid tech user who has tremendous ways of utilizing tech to teach and assess his students.  If he feels this way about this system, he is certainly not alone.  Thus, it is important for me to consider this and to expand my horizons as perhaps my students/other stakeholders feel the same.  As Katia alluded to in the presentation, all tech comes with its positives and its challenges. What I am learning it is integral to consider both and make conscious decisions to utilize tools that aid pedagogical practices.  

Assessment has been the forefront of my division’s priorities about student engagement and learning.  One thing that they do allow is teachers choice about what platforms best suit students.  Perhaps it is a good thing students are able to show their learning utilizing a variety of platforms and assessment strategies. But I can also see how this would pose a challenge as students are constantly needing to access a variety of platforms in order to access their work.  Are we helping prepare them for a future of change?  Or are we just adding more to an already full plate?  With assessment being a pillar to our divisions strategic plan it is important to have dialogue like this class is providing to consider the implications of assessment. I plan on utilizing the readings and the groups presentation with my Department in the fall to continue the conversation post COVID. After reviewing the positives, challenges, learning theories and epistemologies I am hoping we have an increased vocabulary to really reflect on our practice this past year and prior years without a global pandemic. I want us to consider:

  • What assessment practices worked in your classroom this past year?
  • What streamlined the process in order to meet the needs of the students and to help your workload?
  • What did you not miss with all the changes COVID required that you can let go? Are there assessments you did not use? Did you miss them?
  • What do you want to bring back that was from the “before” days? How can we adopt and let go for this upcoming school year?

In my opinion, one of the most important things we do as educators is assess.  Assessment not only lets students know where they stand in terms of a mark, at its best it also can spark curiosity, innovation, and motivation to become active and lifelong learners.  I like to think of assessment as ongoing dialogue.  It’s not about the end game, or “mark”, it’s about the learning process, the problem solving, the collaboration, the learning process that matters to me.  At its best, assessment gives space for conversation, collaboration, feedback, modification- all critical aspects to the learning process.

Week 3.1 The Evolution of the Web

This week’s presentation by Arkin, Katherine, Chris and Rae was incredibly interesting to listen to.  I found their ability to explain each level of Web simple and applicable, and as someone who has taught through each facet of change it was incredibly interesting to reflect on how it has impacted my teaching practice.  What I found interesting is that in my 15 years of experience in the classroom I have seen all iterations of Web in my spaces and practices. 

As Arkin alluded to in his first post his definition of Ed Tech was influenced by both his personal education and his teaching practice.  He spoke about his high school experience and his teachers using tech, but not to its potential.  Arkin stated: “In high school, my exposure to tech was limited” (Kauf, 2021.  Not to date myself- but I was a teacher when Arkin was a student. . . and I was DEFINITELY one of those teachers who tried to use tech but lacked the accessibility and ability to integrate it meaningfully. I recall in my first few years of teaching you had to book the school projector and laptop that hooked up to said projector (filling in two separate duo-tangs to make sure both devices were available).   You then took the laptop and projector to your room from the main office, located the one plug-in for both devices while being able to face the overhead screen in the room.  I’d then power up the schools laptop and wait 45 minutes for the 750 updates to cycle through.  Once the computer started you brought your USB port with the video you tried to download off of YouTube (Wi-Fi was not accessible unless you were on your desktop computer that could not reach the projector screen in order to broadcast).  You then waited with baited breath to show your students the mastery of your teaching- “here is a 10 minute documentary I wanted you to watch as an introduction to the outcome we are going to learn”.  I can’t imagine why Arkin didn’t feel like technology wasn’t a big part of his learning… must have been some other class.

projectorlaptop.com

All joking aside, when I started teaching in 2006 technology was not easily accessible, it was big and difficult to set up, and you had to share it with an entire school.  I did my best to try new tools and to integrate them, but it certainly was very Web 1.0.  I recall assigning a WebQuest for students to understand the main tenants of the Islam faith.  Students were required to read, and answer fill-in the blank questions.  We used the Computer Lab to access the internet and also had a print copy of the assignment to fill in as they read (note- not research, it was literally read and fill in directly from the site).  They could record their answer utilizing a Microsoft word document, but then they had to find a printer so often they would just write responses on a piece of paper for me.  Fast forward to my current classroom set up and in 2 minutes of a conversation I can have a meaningful and engaging video that was sparked from class conversation playing on my screen.  Or even cooler, students can share their screen through the Connected Educator program where I am privileged to have 1-1 devices in my class.  Suddenly we are seeing the Pilgrimage to Hajj and watching people interact with their faith.  We are not just reading a static page that lists the 5th Pillar, we are seeing the Kaaba and watching the beauty of the ritual.  

Upon reflection on my instructional and assessment strategies and how I utilized tech I noticed “The evolution of the web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and now to Web 3.0 can be used a metaphor of how education should also be moving, developing, and evolving from Education 1.0 towards that of an Education 3.0” (Gerstein, 2014, pg. 83).   Upon reflection here are some things I noticed about my trajectory as a teacher utilizing tech and diverse learning theories:

Years 1-8 was very much Web 1.0 and Behaviorist learning theory. Lots of lists, lots of definitions, lots of “receiving, responding and regurgitating” (Gerstein, 2014, pg. 84).  Yes, it was as exciting as you are imagining it. I mean, just ask Arkin 😊.

(Gerstein, 2014, pg. 84)

Years 8-14 I integrated more Web 2.0 and constructivist practices in my spaces.  Focusing on “communicating, contributing and collaborating” (Gerstein, 2014, 87).  This was evidenced with students interacting with Islamic faith, communicating about what they learnt via discussion boards, connecting using Social Media with people in Regina who practice the faith and coming back to collaborate with their learning.

(Gerstein, 2014, pg. 87)

Year 14 and Beyond!

This past year I realized I have been moving my teaching and assignment design to incorporate Web 3.0. I did not have a name for it prior to this presentation but Gerstein perfectly articulate where I hope to go: “Education 3.0 is also about the three Cs but a different set – connectors, creators, and constructivists. These are qualitatively different than the three Cs of Education 2.0. Now they are nouns which translate into the art of being a self-determined learner rather than “doing” learning as facilitated by the educator” (Gerstein, 2014, pg. 91).  This heutagogical, connectivist approach to teaching and learning is evidenced in my personal learning in Graduate Studies, which in turn inspires my classroom assignments.  This past year I created a Podcast called “I’m Curious About”.  It was an opportunity to have curious conversations with people I admire and respect and share that content within my learning communities.  Once I recorded three episodes, I saw the growth, the creativity, the collaboration that was needed.  I had to be fully prepared, I had to think of branding to make it aesthetically pleasing. I used WeVideo to put together the introductions, music and epilogues.  Finally, I wanted to make it accessible to my classmates so I created a Spotify Podcast so it was accessible on all devices.  This process required creativity, innovation, time and also a vulnerability to take something and put it out “there”.  I saw personal and professional growth as this pushed me to go beyond an assignment between myself and my professor, and worked hard to create something that would go out in the world. 

This past year, I assigned a similar task with my students.  The medium they used to express their learning was up to them, but I asked them to consider how they saw the world and how they could contribute that learning within their communities.  They were asked to conduct interviews and prepare a “product” that showcased their conversation, their learning and how it applied to course outcomes.  I implemented a space for myself and my students where “Education 3.0 is characterized by educational opportunities where the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts that are shared, and where social networking and social benefits play a strong role in learning” (Gerstein, YEAR, pg. 90). As I think of the shift to Web 3.0 I often consider who will further benefit.  We have already seen a huge gap in the Digital divide due to the COVID 19 pandemic.  Add in another evolution where there is now an evolution to share content, Artificial intelligence, 3D Graphics and Connectivity and I am officially that old person who thinks it is all moving so fast.

I wonder if society really prepared for this new of interacting with content, with data and with each other?  Have we shown an ability to discern when and where to share content? Have we exhibited enough empathy and understanding to the power of our words and comments?  Are we able to discern our worth isn’t a result of our likes or the comments?  As alluded to in the first readings, Postman said technology will always have humanity attached to it.  And that humanity is also evolving, but I contend not at the speed of technology.  I realize that life and technology will keep moving, and I will use my classroom to further unpack the positives and opportunities for growth found in each, but I do contend this train is moving at warp speed.  I hope I can look back on this post and see the growth I will exhibit through presentations and dialogues like this class provides to ensure I am moving alongside with it.  But I do wonder if we are ready for another iteration of the Web when 2.0 provided so much opportunity for growth (which is a nice way of saying it can be quite challenging).  My hope is with time and reflection I will notice a similar trend when I think back to my first few years teaching and that I will be happy to report that I evolved with the changes to find meaningful ways to interact with content, students and the world.  Here’s to the next 15 and embracing all that comes my way!

Week 2.2 Tools for Online and Distance Education

Part 1:

In my opinion the tools that were most useful/relevant to facilitate and structure online and blended learning for me was an LMS program- specifically Moodle.  Using this platform, I was able to:

  • Have a one stop shop for my classes that allowed me to organize 
    • Assignments: Course outcomes highlighted, expectations and assignment descriptions provided, further explanation and exemplars offered
    • Assessments: rubrics are built right into the platform, so students know expectations and grading practices for each assignment/task
    • Instructional videos:
      • Embedded in the platform using H5P to slow down student thinking and ensure they are getting the main outcomes of the videos.
Created questions embedded in video using the Program H5P
  • Journal Prompts:
    • I was able to assign journals that gave opportunity for reflection and interaction with the content.  These journals were less about “right/wrong” responses, and the focus was on learning about students thinking and connections.  It also provided a forum to see how they were doing in their personal lives so I could understand how to support them as students.  It bred community and relationship even when we were apart.
  • Discussion Boards:
    • Students were provided opportunities to engage with content and expected to interact with each other using :
  • These discussion boards helped foster community.  As stated by Valcarlos et al (2020), these discussion boards provided opportunity for interaction and gave space for diverse epistemologies to be shared and students to be validated, legitimated. The discussion boars also:
    • “Most of the educators in the reviewed articles discussed and employed pedagogies that valued students’ accounts of personal experiences, connecting students’ lives to the course content (Valcarlos, 2020, pg. 353)
    • Furthermore, these discussion boards required students to write reflective responses in which the students needed to provide a reflection “by discussing the extent to which the materials resonated with them, personally and professionally, and new insights and thinking they constructed.” (Valcarlos et al, 2020).

In addition to using Moodle as the location where content was shared, assignments were located and assessments were built in, I also relied heavily on Microsoft Teams.  This program allowed students to contact me while they were working remotely, or on days they were home during hybrid delivery.  It also gave us a tool to use to connect daily during remote learning so students could listen to a lecture, or ask questions, or connect with peers. Further to the ability to connect when they were away, I had students who struggled with anxiety and thus preferred to message me even when they were physically in class.  This will inform future practice as an option to engage in dialogue with me while ensuring the students feel comfortable.  This small opportunity reminds me of the need for intentionality in the classroom and how inclusivity is a conscious choice to offer choice to students of how they interact with the content, their peers and myself. 

Part 2:

Moodle not only allowed me to embed the above material into the courses for students to see and interact with, but students were also able to see the structure of the class so they could plan and execute their time effectively and efficiently.  I designed my courses to follow Unit Plans/Modules so students were aware of the tasks that were assigned, where to find them and also saw the connection to the Course Outcomes.

Source: lo.rcsd.ca

 This visible structure that they had access to since day one illustrated where we were, and where we were going. Its intention was to allow students to plan and prioritize their work whether we were Remote or in Blended learning.  I found my senior students really needed this structure as their days at home as many of my students were working part to full time hours in essential services . In our presentation Josie spoke about the positive and negative of students being given the opportunity to work independently. I saw this in action as their teacher.  I recognized that my students’ schedules were complex and complicated, and that independence would help students complete the work.  With that being said, I also saw the challenges of this required independence as some students had difficulty finding the motivation to work when they were not in school.  It was essential that I shifted my teaching and delivery to not only be about the content but helping them create personal plans that allowed them to work independently and ultimately succeed in the course (and learn an invaluable life lesson).

In students’ lives they are expected to manage many different responsibilities and to do so to the best of their ability.  Time management is a skill set we learn throughout our lives (check out all the thoughts in the Productivity posts) and high school and post-secondary can help prepare us to continue to manage work life balance throughout our lifetimes.  Thus, the LMS platform I used allowed students to plan and prioritize, that allowed them to be successful both in the course (and ideally in their lives).  Further to discussing content, we talked about time management, about setting boundaries and letting work know when things were getting busier with school to ensure they were able to manage all that was being thrown their way.  Utilizing Moodle allowed me to model what organization looks like, how one can plan their life knowing the expectations of the course along with upcoming assignments and assessments and how those skills can and must be transferred into personal lives as well.  I’d like to think that this positively impacted student learning, but to be honest, a lot of students were just trying to “get through” this year.  I observed that some thrived with this freedom, and others really struggled.  Upon reflection, I wonder how they would speak about this structure and design and how it impacted their learning?  Personally, I found that this delivery of content in both remote learning and hybrid delivery greatly impacted my learning experience.  It was a challenge to keep students motivated, create personal plans, deliver content, provide adaptations while simultaneously maintain COVID protocols in the classroom.  I found I was very much exhibiting what Fallery and Rodhain (2011) speak about- “an approach by scenario” where I was often making decisions about interaction about content dependent upon the situation I was faced with.  This “reactionary” approach is not sustainable long term, but I do plan on continuing to discuss real life applications of being a student in the 21st century moving forward. 

There are many lessons I learnt from teaching remotely and in a blended model this past year.  I can say with certainty that I will continue to use Moodle as a delivery method of content and assessment.  I can also say with certainty that there is room for reflection and growth.  My ultimate hope is that I take this past year as an opportunity to define a “new normal” where we take skills and lessons from this past year that worked and implement it in my spaces.

Week 2.1: Productivity Suites

As I watched the video about “Tablets Thursday” it was like @jameshamblin was watching me at work.  As he described working on his paper, looking for something to inspire his writing and ending up writing a note to his ex-girlfriend the tangential evolution of his tabs opening each new tab, with a healthy balance of curiosity and procrastination, made me feel deeply seen!  I know there are times where I have so much going on, I forget what my original task was.  In fact, this past year brought that even more to light because with Remote and Hybrid learning it felt like I was always “on and available”.  One such example from a typical day- while preparing a lesson plan a student would message me on Microsoft teams about a mark.  I’d open up Moodle (the LMS I utilize in my classes) to reference the assignment and the marking scheme to provide a reason why, then I’d open up MSS (our grading program) to ensure the mark entered there was the same mark that was calculated on Moodle. I would then peruse through the student’s assignment and my evaluation and comments.  Finally, I’d reply to the student about their inquiry about their mark.  While this was happening, three emails would come in with assignments that needed to be marked, along with a fourth email from a parent wondering if I had a chance to mark their child’s NHI (one of the three previous emails) as this assignment would increase their mark to passing.  I would reply to the parent that I just got the assignment and would get it marked ASAP.  I would mark said assignment, provide feedback, enter the mark, email the parent and include the student to say hooray (or something equally as professional) back to passing and a friendly reminder to finish items a, b, c to continue to increase mark and showcase learning.  Parent would reply back with a thank you and support of getting more work handed in.  Finally, after all of that, I would sit there staring at my screen wondering what I was originally working on. Oh yeah, an assignment, what class is that for again. . . 

I attribute the above description to those days where you arrive home and don’t remember the drive.  I may have just run several red lights. . . or maybe not. I am here. I don’t hear sirens, so I’m sure it is fine! But in reality, multi-tasking and being pulled in all directions certainly impacts my work, my attention, and also my efficiency.  With that being said, I cannot imagine not utilizing technology and specifically Productivity Suites in my classroom.  I truly believe in Productivity suites, but I think it is a double edge sword where I must also be aware of the ways in which they can pull my focus.  And if that is happening to me, I am certain it is happening to students.

Listening to the groups presentation about Productivity suites paired with this video reminds me that I have to make active choices about what to use, when to use, how to be available and also how to set boundaries.  This is not only going to help my efficiency and mental well-being, but it will also model to my students how to interact with the programs available, while being mindful of the task at hand.  When looking at the Pedagogical advantages, there are many benefits to Productivity suites in classrooms

  • Collaboration
  • Access to material (at home, at school, away on a trip. . . it’s always there!)
  • Flexibility of programs
  • Learning real world examples of digital citizenship in action. 

In the article Schools Leverage Apps and Easy to manage Suites of learning tools, Bengfort speaks about the collaboration and consistency that Productivity suites offer students in school.  Bengfort goes onto say that not only is it consistent, but that “A baseline suite of tools adapts, allowing users to link in other tools as needed while ensuring core functionality isn’t lost”.  I have noticed that in my teaching career that students are showing that consistency and collaboration in their final products.  Often, I have students showing me how they were able to use a tool that is provided by the school division to further enhance their work, interact with peers, engage with content.  Thus, I feel that productivity suites are useful, but it is important to not only teach content, but life skills about management and focus.

Although I see the benefits of Productivity Suites in schools, another downfall of these productivity suites beyond pulling focus is when certain programs are the only ones accessible.  Some students would prefer a different program, so they end up working on it at home.  Others do not have access to technology at home, so they are limited in their ability to enhance or even work on the task.  Add in the digital divide that was very much shown during COVID 19, and teachers are not only dealing with teaching of content, but also of supporting diverse learners with unique learning styles and access to technology.  Basically, teachers are superheroes who navigate the complexities of teaching like they do all the tabs on their screens!  Like Postman alluded to in week one readings, technology come with a cost and school divisions, administrators and teachers all need to be conscious of the push and pull to make informed decisions that best serve student learning (Postman, 1998, pg. 1).  The presentation by Kelly, Deidre, Raquel and Allison offered great insight into the evolution of technology, the ways in which it supports different learning theories, and also the positives and challenges of it.  They offered a great opportunity for teachers to discern when and how to use productivity suites and make informed and intentional decisions.

Part of making decisions about how/when/why to utilize Productivity Suites means understanding the cost and analyzing when it is appropriate to use.  Bates illustrated this point of making informed decisions and the power of effective educators.  Bates states: “Good teachers usually have an arsenal of tools, methods and approaches that they can draw on, depending on the circumstances. Also teachers and instructors will differ over what constitutes good teaching, depending on their understandings of what knowledge is, what matters most in learning, and their priorities in terms of desirable learning outcomes” (Bates, 2015, 2.1).

Source: Productivity Suites Presentation

I think it is incredibly important to incorporate productivity suites in the classroom, but like all things, it is important to balance how, when and why.  It is critical to illustrate what “concentration” looks like in action.  One such interesting fact that Blake Thorne shares in his Blog is that It takes an average of about 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be exact) to return to the original task after an interruption. Multiple studies confirm this.  I can confirm that is the case for me with the first example I gave of a daily occurrence in 21st century teaching.  So am I, or my students more productive?  Yes.  Are we also incredibly distracted? Yes!  Like all things it is a balancing act and an opportunity to further the lesson beyond the content and into real world examples of figuring out how to balance between productivity and distraction.  Now I will close my 6 tabs that are currently open and respond to the 8 text messages I missed while writing this.  The fight goes on!

Source: bakerclub.co