Category Archives: EC&&I 833

The Social Dilemma with Social Potential

The majority of people, in my humble opinion, stand on either two sides on how they view social media: essential or futile.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am one of those who like to think that I am on both sides, depending on the context, but there is always a force pulling me closer to one side than the other.  I bet it’s the same side that you’re on, considering you taking a graduate-level EdTech class, however, I may be a bit presumptuous in saying that.  I’ll let you linger on your chosen side for now.

I viewed the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma a few months ago when it was first brought to my attention by a classmate and Twitter colleague, Nancy.  Although I was familiar with the addictive nature of social media, this film brought to light some other areas of its development and nature to which it breeds what Tristan Harris, a co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology and former Google “design ethicist”, terms a “digital pacifier” dependency.  In addition, consumerism and commercialization is a building block for the development of apps.  Harris goes on to explain that, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”  Shoshana Zuboff, a social psychologist and Harvard professor, adds to this by stating that social media has become a vehicle for “surveillance capitalism”.  Mass surveillance of online activities allows for the sale of personal data to companies who have focused on ways to “deploy user data in order to keep people online longer, thus guaranteeing more views for paid advertisers.”  The algorithms used to gather data identify and target a user’s interests and this, unfortunately, only exposes them to more narrow viewpoints, especially for those who are unaware of this configuration.

However, the more we educate people, the more we can see the benefits of social media platforms.   Although informative with some shockingly accurate facts, this documentary takes on a fear-mongering approach which blinds viewers to the potential benefits of social media.  If used purposefully, which I admit, can be loosely defined, I would love to see a documentary that spotlights the positive impact that social media has had and can have on society.

mr. mackey politician GIF by South Park

Side note, interestingly enough, as this article states, “It [Social Dilemma] nobly asks us to stay alert and to monitor our own, parasitic relationships with the apps that keep us connected, but it also innately feeds the algorithmic beast with its presence on Netflix.”  A bit hypocritical?

Before I get to the specific positives and negatives that social media has in our schools and society, the real reason for this post, I wanted to bring your attention to another documentary titled Screened Out.  Although I have not viewed it myself, I stumbled upon it after looking up some reviews on The Social Dilemma as it is closely compared to the amount of time we spend on our devices due to their addictive algorithms.  It explores how “social media, smartphones, tablets and a range of platforms and devices have fundamentally changed the way we communicate and operate in the world.”

If you have viewed this film, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Okay, now for the meat and potatoes of this post.  I have gleaned some insights from the plethora of research that I did using my device since it gives me up to date information from many perspectives.  Interesting tool, isn’t it?

1. BYOD – Bring Your Own Device

Now that cellphones are in the hands of our youth at younger ages and schools have difficulties keeping technology updated or have enough for each student (a huge costs), educators are asking students to BYOD for activities.  Ironically, this relates to the constant battle of cell phone usage in schools, especially elementary, as they aren’tUsing BYOD In Schools: Advantages And Disadvantages - eLearning Industry often used for intentional educational purposes.  However, BYOD is a way to meet students in the middle.  They already have their phone at school, likely in their hands or at least nearby, so why not use them purposefully by engaging them encouraging ad increasing student participation while expanding the curriculum. Unfortunately, not all students have access to devices to partake in these initiatives, albeit used with good intentions.  Does this create a negative social situation for some and highlight the disadvantage they are in?  Does this put social pressures on students to go against parent guidelines already in place? Or, does this create an environment to allow all students access to technology in the classroom for those that can bring their devices?  The controversy continues and always will.

I would love to hear your experiences with using a BYOD approach as I have never used it myself.

2. Finsta/Rinsta & FOMO

Yes, I am using terms that are familiar to most youth, but perhaps not to parents/educators.  Out of social media has come the practice of having more than one account on a platform.  Upon learning in other EdTech classes, I realized that I am one of those who have several accounts for specific purposes, usually work and personal.  Pop Tv GIF by Schitt's CreekHowever, kids have a couple accounts on the same platforms to showcase their “fake side” known as a Rinsta account (real + insta = rinsta).  This one is usually made public and showcases only “positive” things in their life.   The other account is used to display their “real side” known as a Finsta account (fake + insta = finsta).  This one is usually shared with close friends/family who they feel safe to be themselves around without judgement.  No, I didn’t get those mixed up, the fake account is their real self.  I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either.  Either way, this particular app breeds a FOMO (fear of missing out) mentality as it feeds into social approval with likes, views, and comments, much like Facebook and Twitter.

Having said that, we all seem to have two accounts in real life as well, prior to social media.  When I was younger, I was usually a different person in a school setting, than I was with my school friends, than I was with my sports friends, than I was with my family.  Sorry mom and dad, you usually got the worst part of me.  This has changed slightly since I’ve aged but I still act differently depending on my social setting.   Social platforms are an updated, real-time way to connect with your “friends” depending on who you share your content with.  Although largely debated, it has also been said that social media has increased the number of people that struggle with mental health.  However, could it be argued that there has always been a large number of people that struggle, it is just more exposed through platforms such as these because it reaches more people faster and can be viewed by more at once?  It can also be said that more support systems for those who struggle with mental health are more available and accessible due to social media.

(said sarcastically) “Who takes a picture without a filter anymore?”
– Alec Couros

3. Pressure

To add more to the multiple identities portrayed on social media, there are other pressures put on kids to have the best device and to have all the apps in order to feel like they belong.  The types of peer pressure remain the same, but it has changed with how it is communicated.  Cyberbullying has been a common term due to relentless texting, tagging in posts, and trolling.  It’s hard to sort out friends and “friends” in person let alone online.  In addition, the ridiculous challenges that are posted online range from funny to dangerous, such as the Tide Pod Challenge.  These psychologically manipulated situations that are often publicized push kids into unfavourable situations.  Even though one may think these are bad, the evidence of the thousands of others trying it themselves is hard to ignore.

Pressure GIF by memecandy

Parents fit into this category of pressure as well.  Keeping up with the latest technology, apps, and overall management is difficult.  Kids always asking and sometimes getting cell phones at younger ages and engaging in social media without a so-called “driver’s license” is a situation that occurs more often than it should.  Sometimes parents relieve the pressure put on by their child in hopes that their kid doesn’t get socially ostracized.  I know my husband and I have many discussions with our friends who have kids and our opinions, approaches, and thoughts about cell phones and app usage don’t always align, and this makes me second guess if we’re doing the “right” thing to help ensure our kids are going to eventually be digitally wise participants.

4. Educate the masses

This takes me to my last and most important point.  It is unrealistic to shut yourself or your kids from social media as it has a huge presence in how we function every day from general communication via texting/emailing to financial management and organizing life’s events.  However, it is realistic to teach digital citizenship.  It is our duty as educators to teach these skills within our current context because we are living in it and are a part of it every day.  In my mind, it’s really no different than teaching financial literacy.  Not only that, we need to educate people in general, not just parents so that we can be role models for our youth.

MediaSmarts |Interestingly enough,  I came across this resource that my school division has purchased a license that gives teachers a tool to teach digital literacy, among other resources that are already available online.  It is called Media Smarts and has individual interactive scenarios for kids to work through at different age levels.  The areas and promotional videos are:

Passport to the Internet (Gr. 4-6)  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbOB6pbsFhk&feature=youtu.be

A Day in the Life of the Jos (Gr. 6-8) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmYUy4F3t14&feature=youtu.be

My World (Gr. 7-10) –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nemTlFIZ988

Web Awareness Workshop Series PD –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSx0yVi9eFA

I look forward to diving into this, first with my own children!

Within the topics we have and continue to explore, I tend to reflect back on Neil Postman’s “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change”.  This website asks some thought-provoking questions related to each of the five things he mentions.  It’s worth a look to put into context how social media impacts our schools and society and how we may start to add the counter-narrative to the social media controversy.

Digital connectivity is here and is continually growing in importance. Technology is facilitating digital classrooms, connecting us in online boardrooms, and keeping us in contact with friends, family and colleagues. Even long time competitors are coming together to meet needs during the pandemic.

How we can choose to spend time our devices need to be directed to more healthy ways.  Changing our online behaivours from numbing our fears and anxieties to connecting, creating, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration will give us more mindful, positive experiences.

evolution of education

“Many educators are doing Education 1.0 and talking about Education 2.0, when they should be planning and implementing Education 3.0” – Jackie Gerstein

Education 1.0 is classified by an essentialist, instructivist, pedagogical teaching model based on the 3Rs. Students receive the information by listening to the teacher, respond by taking notes and study, and regurgitate by taking the same assessment.

The similarity between Education 1.0 and Web 1.0 is that the content knowledge is provided in one-way. Teachers play the role of the primary gatekeepers of information and the students are dependent on the information provided by them.

The major cons of this teacher centred model is that there is no or little regard to student interest, that can result in lack of engagement. Students are passive receivers of information and knowledge presented to them. There is no room for differentiation, nor adaptation and all students are evaluated with the help of standardized testing based on a single performance. The teacher-oriented model requires obedience from the students with the teacher having the power.

The issue is that just by incorporating technology, Education 1.0 does not become Education 2.0, nor Education 3.0. Giving students the opportunity to use 21st century technology to access information via ebooks or web sites, taking notes from a video lecture or using technology for drill and grill does not help them develop 21st century skills, such as interacting, commenting, and sharing.

Education 2.0 is classified as an andragogical, constructivist approach to teaching and learning based on the 3Cs: communicating, contributing and collaborating. The similarity between Education 2.0 and Web 2.0 is that both permit interactivity between the teacher and student (the content and users), as well as the student to student, student to content (users themselves) through commenting, remixing and sharing via social networks. Education 2.0 has a humanistic element considering teacher-student and student-student relationships as part of the learning process. The teacher still plays the role of the facilitator of learning and the one who develops learning activities. Some of the progressive steps of Education 2.0 are the project-based learning with a focus on real world problems, inquiry-based learning, cooperative-, and global learning projects with the use of Skype in the classroom, blogs and collaborative digital tools.

Education 3.0 has a heutagogical, connectivist approach to teaching and learning based on 3Cs: connectors, creators, and constructivists.

The similarities between Web 3.0 and Education 3.0 are that Web 3.0 offers richer, more relevant, interactive networked content and Education 3.0 is based on social networking, self-determined learning where learning is based on students’ interest. Education 3.0, by recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique and personalized, meets the learners’ needs. The students are highly autonomous with the educator being the guide on the side who steers students in more productive directions through modelling, sharing and coaching. Although Education 3.0 is often described as a teaching and learning approach for adult learners, with the abundance of open educational resources (OER), younger learners are given the opportunity to engage in self-driven learning as well.

But what is the reason for many educators to do Education 1.0, and talk about Education 2.0, instead of planning and implementing Eduation 3.0?

Looking at the many excuses of a fixed mindset, I do feel guilty because, even though I am trying to move forward, I do think that some of these are relevant issues we, educators are facing. I grew up in Education 1.0 and I will do everything in my power to avoid it. It was everything that made me dread going to school. Thanks to the project I am working on with my classmates, Curtis and Dean on maker spaces and coding, I started seeing ways of taking my classroom to the next level by providing meaningful context to my students. This day, the human element of the Education 2.0 is the most important part of my classroom. Working with EAL students, having strong, trusting relationships with my students and their families is my main focus. I feel I am taking baby steps towards Education 3.0 by focusing on meeting my learners’ needs and providing an opportunity for interest-based learning. I am very fortunate not having to follow a curriculum and not having to mark my students’ work. This really gives me the opportunity to feel like a guide on the side who models and shares strategies. I am reminding myself each and every day to look for opportunities for small changes in teaching and always keep in mind to see “What is in the best interest of the learner”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpdN9NyBEXc

Although moving from Education 1.0 towards Education 3.0 is far from being easy, especially during the pandemic, it is important to stay connected and keep moving just like the determined karate kids do during the concrete training!

Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

My Dilemma with The Social Dilemma

I watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma at the start of this semester. And of course, I shared a post on social media with my opinion of the show.

The premise of the show is that social media companies manipulate the people who use the platforms with complicated and intentional algorithms and design.  The show suggests that there are many evils happening unbeknownst to the users including:

-  addiction to social media 
-  online privacy issues 
- monetization of personal data for advertisements
- concerns of an unregulated industry that has gone too far

Let's start with the positive aspects of the documentary.

Clearly, this show has created an awareness of some of the issues of social media and Web 2.0.  It has acted as a stimulus for conversations about digital citizenship, privacy, and personal data use with our online activities.  

Through the dramatization of the family in the show, it challenged how we are using technology and showed some of the issues of unhealthy habits and "addiction" to screens and social media.  Many families are concerned about how to best manage technology with their kids and the potential serious impacts of misinformation found online, unhealthy habits (lack of sleep, disconnection with "real world" friends and activities).  Personally, I really disliked this aspect of the documentary as I found it was over the top rather than factual.


I appreciated the information on the importance of finding a balance with technology and that it can not act as a substitute for in-person connection.  While our digital connection can help build and nuture relationships, it cannot be a substitution.

The information the documentary shared about political interference, misinformation and radicalization was very relevant as we approach the US election.  I have been delving more into this topic over the past few months as a personal interest, and because I have witnessed a rise in incivility and discourse since the start of the pandemic on the municipal government social media channels that I manage for my work.  These are serious and important issues that will need to be addressed in some way - either by government or managed by the social media platforms.

Spoiler Alert - I am not a fan.

Besides the over acting, which I am not a fan of, my issue with the documentary is that it did a great job of raising concerns and bringing to light many problems of the online world, but did not offer any substantial help. This was a missed opportunity to provide advice and options that can help families navigate these challenges and issues.  I did find some resources on their website on how to take action however most focus on advocacy rather than practical help.  Probably the best resource I found is a discussion guide that you can download to help facilitate constructive conversations at home and at school.  The site has a Bingo game 

Although I am not clear if it accomplishes what the heading suggests, "are you using technology or is it using you?"

I have read numerous reviews by others on this documentary that point to innaccurate use of statistics and research.  Many researchers commented that the current research shows a correlation NOT CAUSE as it relates to the impact of technology and social media on mental health issues.  Another pet peeve is the use of the term "addiction".  Excessive social media and technology use can be dangerous, but the use of the term addiction is irresponsible and only feeds the hype.  If you want a good read about this I suggest this link   

I was troubled with all of the people interviewed in the docudrama.  Many were responsible for the development of the technology that they are now condemning.  Ethically I questioned who they made their money, and are now attacking them. This presented a very unequal perspective.  I am not clear if the social media companies were invited to respond, but I did read the statement issued by Facebook (posted, where else, but on Facebook).

At the end of the day ...

I am pleased so many people are watching it (on Netflix, a paid platform that uses algorithms and paid advertising to determine what content to serve users, how ironic?!) because people are talking about it.  I am disappointed with the unbalanced and very narrow perspective that feeds on anxiety and fear.  But at least it is increasing awareness of the fact that we are living with technology and need to be aware of the challenges and issues that come with it.

What did you think of the docudrama?







Online Teaching and Higher Education

 

I currently teach online courses at two higher education institutions - Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary.  When I first started online teaching 7 years ago, I developed my course curriculum, added it to the LMS system and then did a synchronous session each semester with my students.  In other words, I followed the protocol outlined by both institutions.  I struggled with connecting with my students beyond the required responses on the discussion thread forums.


I was bored as an instructor and knew there had to be a better way to create a more engaging experience online like I had when I was in the classroom.  

I turned to tools I was familiar with like using Twitter to interact with the class.  Tweeting helpful resources and responding to students each week help establish more frequent connection.  Although each semester I will have at least a couple of students who are reluctant to try this tool, generally most are receptive to try using it since they are taking a course in social media! 

Another tool I have incorporated is Screencastify.  I used to simply upload my powerpoint presentation decks (like I was advised), but instead I have focused on creating weekly video lessons.  Although it has been a significant investment of my time to create the videos, I have had such positive feedback from my students that I am inspired to keep creating.  I cringe at some of my early videos but I prescribe to the saying "make progress not perfection".  

Both Universities are quite restrictive on using tools that must be approved by the institutions, so I try to push the boundaries a little and focus on how I can use those tools more effectively.  Unfortunately, in my opinion there is very little that can be done with the LMS Blackboard.  

I can use Youtube, and have been using the Creator Studio course and videos for inspiration.  I am also grateful for this course and love the format of learning from others about approaches, tools and technology.  Each week I have been motivated to try a new tool or have been inspired on how to apply for my courses.

My takeaway for this week is that having an open mind and willingness to learn is one of the best "tools" you can utilize.  If you have not watched this video of Carol Dueck and the Power of Yet, I highly recommend it





Crisis Learning, Distance Learning

Thanks to the Educational Technology classes I have been taking as part of my Masters’ Certificate Program, I feel quite fortunate when it comes to being familiar with effective tools that I can implement when teaching both in-person or online. Although I am familiar with and I had a chance to use Flipgrid, WeVideo, Adobe Spark, Google Slides, Screencastify, Podcasting, etc. I cannot say that it was on a regular basis. Since I see my students for 30-40 minute time slots and not having my own set of devices, I often decided to teach without incorporating a whole lot of technology. In the past, I mostly assigned reading-, comprehension-, and vocabulary building assignments through Raz-Kids for the students to work on them at home or while being in their homeroom.

https://media.giphy.com/media/MCAFTO4btHOaiNRO1k/giphy.gif

During the “crisis schooling” it was Raz-Kids that served as the basis of my teaching. It was certainly a stressful time and looking back, it seems it took forever to get into contact with my students. At the very beginning of the supplemental learning, I was providing support to the classroom teachers to avoid adding extra stress to the parents’ lives. Not seeing my students, not being able to help them and their families, and knowing about the heart breaking situations in my students’ home lives including financial difficulties as well as the digital divide they were facing definitely added to the stress level. We were mainly focusing on our students’ and their families well being by being in touch with them through phone calls, delivering groceries, devices and printed packages. It took quite a long time, until all families received a device. During this uncertain time the staff had a chance to prepare for online education. I am thankful for having all the PD opportunities to learn how to use Microsoft Teams, since the use of Zoom was out of the question after “zoombombing” started to happen. For a while I was questioning, why we do not learn how to use Zoom safely, instead of just starting over with something brand new in such a stressful time? But I decided to save my energy and just go with the flow.

I did enjoy learning about Microsoft Teams and Seesaw. I actually ended up using both towards the end of the supplemental learning with my EAL students. But just like my classmate, Shelby described, the turnout was not that great, which lead to the feeling of unfulfillment and frustration. So much planning went into setting up and posting the assignments and there were barely students participating. I don’t blame my students though. I am sure they had so much going on in their lives. I am just like them, an immigrant who lives in Canada, and not having family and a strong support system, definitely made this time lonelier and harder to deal with.

So, I decided to take one day at a time and got through the emergency remote teaching. I am so happy to be back in the classroom and spend time with my students. School this year is certainly very different and everything requires so much more attention. As Kareem Farah describes in The Modern Classroom Podcast, the beauty of teaching is that we get another shot. I feel I get another shot to do things better. I am using one of my 40 minute prep times every week to book devices for the following week to give my students the opportunity to learn how to log into Microsoft Teams or Seesaw, how to access and complete their assignments. To be honest, I still have students whose passwords are not working, and that causes a whole lot of frustration. Since I am supporting over 90 students, I decided to focus on my older grades first, the grade 6, 7, and 8 students. At this point, I am preparing my students for online learning by walking them through the assignments posted in Microsoft Teams to make sure they know how to participate in case our school needs to shut down for a period of time. This is a rocky road, but I am figuring things out slowly. As a result of me not having access to News-o-matics, since I am not a classroom teacher, I created a Newsela account. It is a wonderful resource that provides levelled articles with the opportunity to listen to the stories as well. In order to keep my students engaged, I am trying to find articles that are related to their interests and cultures. I also use Kahoot since that is a fun way to review grammatical concepts. After my higher grade students have a good understanding and become confident and independent users of these few tools and resources, I am going to focus on technology use with my students between grades 1-5 using Seesaw. In the meantime, I would like to spend some time making instructional videos that I could post either in Microsoft Teams or Seesaw. In case we have to switch to online learning, this would give me the opportunity to teach through a combination of asynchronous-, and synchronous means. When listening to Kareem Farah’s podcast regarding the use of both, reminded me of the flipped classroom model. In case of a school shut down, my students could listen to my recordings to become familiar with a new concept and the Microsoft Teams meeting would give us a chance to bring in the elements of synchronous learning by having discussions, group work, etc. My classmate, Shelby mentioned that having recordings of her lessons are very helpful in case her students are missing school due to illness. In case of online learning, having access to asynchronous means can be very helpful, since often times the internet is not strong enough, or there aren’t enough devices in the household. Another benefit of asynchronous learning is that it gives the students a chance to listen to the lesson as many times as needed. By this, learning becomes meaningful, since it gives students the opportunity to self-paced learning. Having said that, as both of my classmates, Amanda and Shelby pointed out, designing and creating quality lessons for asynchronous sessions is incredibly time consuming. Teachers also need to be familiar using various tools to be able to create these recordings.

Looking back at 2020, I certainly have learnt a lot. I will never teach the same way I used to. Am I where I’d like to be? Not even close, but I learnt to take one step at a time and try to narrow things down. Certainly there are a lot of tools I would like to learn how to use, especially Pixton comics and PearDeck, but I also started to explore the world of Minecraft. I am very excited to learn more, with the help of my classmates, Dean and Curtis about ways to teach English as an Additional language through the world of Minecraft. Working with Dean and Curtis on our project on maker space and coding opened up a whole new world to me. I find it fascinating to experiment with teaching English as an Additional language with the help of coding and tinkering. Bee Bot would be just one example, that could serve as an engaging tool for my students. Having said that, I try to avoid multitasking and remind myself to focus on a few tools at a time since I often get overwhelmed with the abundance of tools and resources. I often think, if I feel this way, maybe my students and their families are having similar experiences, so I like to keep things simple. For now, I am taking one step at a time while being thankful for the amazing support system I am surrounded with and the power of collaboration and connectedness I am enjoying each and every day.

https://media.giphy.com/media/osjgQPWRx3cac/giphy.gif

Planning for Potential (or Inevitable?) Change

I’m going to be frank with you here.  The sudden stop to in-person teaching in the spring was difficult for all.  However, as a resource teacher, I felt absolutely useless.  What I mean by this is I didn’t have a classroom for which I had to create content, didn’t have a classroom to have to take the lead on, and didn’t have a classroom that I called Jake Berg what endless confused door GIFmy own.  Although I don’t have this in person either, I feel like I have a daily impact in all of the classrooms that I support with both the teachers and the students.   I got disconnected from my purpose in the blink of an eye.  As Shelby had mentioned, when we were forced to go online, students had the “green light” to advance and involvement was optional.  In addition to this, many students in my school didn’t have access to supplementary learning.  It was quite devastating because those students are the reason why I go to work every day.  They are the reason that I research different tools and techniques to meet their needs.   They are the reason I watch Fornite, Tic Tok, and crack “dad” jokes to talk the lingo or to make them groan.  Those interactions aren’t the same online.

I did my best to support my teachers by suggesting technology tools, helping troubleshooting Google Classroom, and brainstorming engaging activities to motivate students to connect.  Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the number of students that regularly logged on and participated in all the hard-working, interactive, appealing activities ranged between 0 and 8.  This was a huge disappointment for all of the hours spent curating content, however, teachers didn’t want to give up any online time with those students to me for specialized instruction, and I don’t necessarily blame them.  Therefore, I logged in to the daily, every second day, or weekly meeting each classroom had to help out in any way, even if it were to just be a familiar face to those on the other side of the screen.

Now that we are in person, I am so thankful, even with all of the safety and cleaning protocol in place.  However, I need to get over the fact that going back online may happen again and I need to prepare for it, but how?  I have been reflecting on what this could look like, but I have to start at the basics.

Plan Modernfamilyabc GIF by ABC Network

First, I am cognizant and respect that families at my school may not have the ability to connect online without supports from our staff.  This was a huge factor that impacted a lot of families in the spring.  Therefore, I’d like to start thinking about a plan NOW about how we can get access to these vulnerable families to ensure they are top of mind and included in the transition if one takes place.  How can we get technology in their hands?  How can we advocate for them and set them up for success before remote learning potentially becomes the only option for education?  Currently, I have four students that were to be on my caseload who were assigned technology from the school division, a few who have gone to e-learning.  However, their equipment remains at the school because we have been advised to keep it in the building at this time.  Don’t get me wrong, this technology is benefitting other students in the school, but what about those students who should be using it at home for e-learning?  I would like to address how to help them use this technology at home as I would at school if they were attending.  Likewise, I feel for the e-learning resource teachers that are expected to support these students as they don’t know their needs (yet) like we do at the school.  Is there a way to collaborate with each other to help students and their families navigate these waters?

Image for postSource

Secondly, I need to take some lessons from Amanda because I loved her idea of making videos for her students about the reading strategies (Eagle Eye, Skippy Frog, etc) that acting green screen GIF by The Comeback HBOcan be used again and again.  Students love that kind of stuff, especially when it is curated by their teacher them.  Kudos to you Amanda!  Perhaps I need to get even more dedicated and look into green screen video creations.  Any suggestions?

For that reason, I would like to look into more video making tools, aside from my go-to WeVideo.  Jennifer Gonzalez recommended mysimpleshow, which has a free educator account.  I also found Biteable, Camtasia, Animoto, Adobe Spark, PowToon, VideoScribe that could have some potential.  The only downside is that most of them cost money, which is a huge turnoff if I don’t use them regularly.  This is mostly why I use WeVideo all the time as my school division has a license for it.

As Matt uses, a flipped-classroom approach starts with well planned out videos.  Perhaps this is what I should be doing to prepare myself and students for potential remote learning.  Some benefits of using videos with this approach are:

  • You can reach a variety of learning styles (visual, auditory, physical or verbal).

The tips shared by Amanda, Kristina, Nancy, and Catherine are great as making a video can be daunting.  I do appreciate knowing the amount of time that should be spent on each of the areas of planning (40%), recording (40%), enhancing (10%; my Achilles heel), and sharing (10%).

I like this tweet by Kareem Farah about the pressures teachers are facing due to Covid which I feel is applicable to both in-person and online learning.  We need to ensure that instruction and activities are purposeful and not just time fillers and to reach kids through engagement at their level and interest.

COVID has caused a sudden obsession with making sure kids have “stuff” to do. Teachers are feeling the pressure to fill high amounts of live class time with compliance based lectures that fail to cultivate mastery. Keeping kids busy is not the same thing as keeping kids engaged.

@Kareemfarah23

A way to do this is by using tools that have been brought up in class for which I’d like to explore further for student engagement and interaction.

Pear Deck
As the group this week demonstrated, there are some great interactive features that allow students to be active participants in a slide-slow type presentation or lesson.  Their ability to demonstrate their understanding by answering questions, asking questions, voting, etc is also an easy way to do some formative assessment along the way.

Flippity.net
There are many templates for easy activities like word sorts and MadLibs, two of my favourite, for reading instruction.  Although you can’t gather specific data from students on this site, you are able to get students to share their screen as they manipulate and talk through their thought process during the activity using their virtual manipulatives.  Jocelyn has shared with me some of the activities that she and her colleagues created during their emergency learning situation in the spring.  I’d like to create a bank of my own!

Although overwhelming, the switch to online learning has a lot of potential.  There are many hurdles to overcome, but with the right mindset, approach, and collaborative partners, I feel that I am ready to start planning for a different way of teaching.  Let’s not kid ourselves, we didn’t get into this profession because it is easy!

Can I Still Teach, How I Teach, Using Online Learning Tools?

The whole online learning world came crashing down on me as I came back from my first maternity leave. I was so excited to be back in the classroom and have some of my regular routine back. I remember feeling like I had been gone for years after my first week back. In just one …

Continue reading Can I Still Teach, How I Teach, Using Online Learning Tools?

Juggling is not recommended?

Distractions are the epitome of my life.  I have always been a proud multitasker, but I’m starting to realize that this isn’t always a good thing.  Many of the environments that we work and live in each day don’t provide the structure to be a single-tasker.  We utilize computers and networks that have instant messaging, email, and other “productivity” tools that perpetuate the rabbit hole syndrome that defines distraction.  As a parent, I feel that I get interrupted all the time on a task by a request for help or to answer a plethora of questions from my kids and even husband that pull me away from focusing on my “job”.

I am an avid audiobook listener.  I find it easier to listen to an audiobook while I do yard work, working on a crossword puzzle, or when playing an addicting game on my phone.  Is this considered multitasking?  I feel things like audiobooks increase the ability of multitasking.  How many people do you know that sit and do nothing else while listening to an audiobook?  I’ve never read more books in the past few months due to this “productivity tool”.  I have difficulties reading an actual book because I have to put all my attention into and not let anything interfere.  As I type this, perhaps this is my problem.  In my opinion, there are times when multitasking can be beneficial in a leisure environment.  However, there is a difference in multitasking for work-related tasks.

This article lists ten reasons why single-tasking is beneficial.

  1. Conserves energy
  2. Improves productivity
  3. Increases commitment
  4. Promotes self-discipline
  5. Strengthens us against distractions
  6. Improves our attention span
  7. Makes us happier
  8. Improves our communication
  9. Improves our relationships
  10. Gives us an advantage

There are that I can agree with but others from this list are a stretch.  As you can see, I’m still struggling with the idea that multitasking is all bad.

When I typed in “distraction” in my search for this blog, the first link brought me to an ADHD help site called ADDitude.  After reading through it, it makes me second guess whether we all may have an attention deficit to some degree.  As Jocelyn noted, our profession leads us into multitasking but this is necessary to survive in our jobs.  We are constantly being faced with questions (on and off-topic) from students and colleagues, interruptions from unexpected visitors at the door,  off-topic side conversation that you need to redirect, a perceived disagreement/argument between students, students arriving late, students complaining they are sick, an unexpected behaviour, technical difficulties, etc.  Many of these we have to turn our attention t0 in order to continue with the priority activity at hand.  However, there are many distractions for which we can avoid addressing like looking at our phones and smartwatches….well really, those are the biggest ones.

Because I am supporting many classrooms throughout the day as an LRT, I like to justify that I have my phone and my smartwatch on me on full alert in case I have a teacher that needs my help with a student or answering a text that may need an immediate answer from either my family, friends, or colleagues. However, this takes me away from the present moment supports that I should be providing to both the teacher and students.  Technology has created the ability and expectation for everyone to be available instantaneously and get upset when we don’t get a timely response.  However, we are taking this aspect of in-person interaction away by being immersed in our phones.  Since when does this become a priority over the in-person interaction?  It doesn’t make sense.

Nir Eyal is an expert in behavioral engineering, He helps businesses help to incorporate elements of behavioral science to enable software designers to develop habit-forming products.  These habits are part of the distraction that creates and feeds into our multitasking behaviours.  He explains that time management is pain management.  What he means by this is when we don’t want to do a task, we look to avoid it and find ways to get rid of the negative sensation.  We do this by procrastinating which leads to us getting distracted by something that gives us a more positive sensation, such as looking to see who liked our recent Instagram post or finding recipes for supper.  He also adds to the idea previously discussed how our work environments are structured around multitasking.  We get notifications instantly for emails, texts, social media, and how quickly we respond, no matter the urgency of the notification, determines how easily distracted we are, sometimes without even knowing it.  He explains more about this research in this video about being “Indistractable“.

A simple way that a former grade one teacher colleague used to deter student interruptions during her Daily 5 small group sessions was very clever.  She wore a headband with cat ears.  When she had these on, students knew that she was not available because she was focusing on the small group of students that she was working with.  So brilliant!  No different than the nurses mentioned in Nir Eyal’s video that wore red plastic vests to indicate they didn’t want to be distracted when organizing medication dosages for patients at the hospital.  An easy visual cue.  However, this isn’t something that can translate to the online distractions that we experience, or can it?

For specific online distractions, this article listed some practical ways to single task.

  1. Get into a routine
  2. Silence all non-essential notifications
  3. Block access to distracting websites (see below for specific Chrome extensions)
  4. Take a screen break
  5. Get some rest

For myself, I often take several days to write a blog because I am usually multitasking.  This time, I set a timer for one hour at a time, I turned off my notifications, I put myself in our home office with the door closed to deter any interruptions, turned on our newly purchased light therapy lamp, and plugged away.  I have to say, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten a lot more done using this Pomodoro technique than my usual multitasking approach.  However, I need to make a routine of this in order for real sustainable productivity to continue.

Here are some other suggestions of specific online related ways to help eliminate distractions so that you can be more productive on single tasks.

Timebox your schedule

Timeboxing means creating a schedule of what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.  You want to fill up all of your time so that you can’t deviate or procrastinate from the game plan.  This includes setting time for scrolling through social media, replying to emails, spending time with your family, etc. The notifications on our devices often distract us by pulling us away from what we really want to do. We may try to ignore those triggers, but research shows that ignoring a call or message can be just as distracting as responding to one.

DF Tube 

DF Tube (Distraction Free for YouTube™)

This Chrome extension transforms the appearance of your YouTube page by entirely eliminating recommendations, related videos, and comments.  This is just what you need when you’re in work or study mode or when you’re using a YouTube video in a presentation.  You also have the ability to change DF YouTube’s settings, so you can hide some distractions but show others that you may want to see.  For example, get rid of the sidebar but still see related videos that might be helpful.

BlockSite

This Chrome extension allows you to block specific sites based on parameters you define so you can remain productive on a single task.  There are different modes to select from that can have a password protection option applied to make it even more difficult to access unnecessary sites.  It can be downloaded on your mobile device as well.

StayFocused

This Chrome extension helps you stay focused by restricting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. Once your allotted time has been used up, the sites you have blocked will be inaccessible for the rest of the day.

Here is an article that lists several other options of apps/extensions to help with eliminating distractions.

So what do you do when you’ve applied all the techniques and installed all the Chrome extensions and you’re still distracted.  Distracted by what, you say?  Distractions can easily come within the productivity suite or presentation tool that you are using as well.  I get caught up in the formatting options in the productivity suites and presentation tools that I use ALL THE TIME!  What kind of font, colour, size, angle of text/image, shape, page layout, white space, image size, animation, timing….the list high school GIFgoes on and on.  Sure these options may make the presentation look great, but perhaps those moving parts on the screen are a distraction to your audience and their attention on what you’re presenting itself.  It’s a vicious cycle for which one must be disciplined to be able to prioritize the steps within the task itself.  How many times have you witnessed students excited to do a writing task on a computer but waste all of their time tinkering with the formatting options or selecting songs to “listen” to on YouTube to help them regulate during their independent work time?

We have to keep in mind that it’s ok to not be doing something in order to breathe, regroup, rest, and relax (I say this more for myself as I struggle with downtime).  I encourage you to watch and do further searching (single-tasking, of course) on the Bored and Brilliant Challenge by Manoush Zomorodi. It’s an interesting view of our multitasking tendencies and identifying what we might be missing out on when we unplug. In addition, this video by Manoush also highlights our dependency on technology and how distracting it can be just walking down the street.

The Bored and Brilliant Book by Manoush Zomorodi — Manoush

I want to leave you with this one last thought.  We are dependent on technology to help us be productive each day, but isn’t it also making us less productive when using it?