Category Archives: online learning

The Final Prototype

This semester we were tasked with creating an online course prototype and I am pretty proud of what I accomplished.  When I began this course I didn’t necessarily think I taught in a “blended” classroom, but with my use of Google Classroom increasing every semester, I realized quickly that I actually do use forms of blended learning in my classrooms all the time, mostly for simple things like posting extra videos, notes, or assignments so students have the opportunity to access information when they are absent from class.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take a course I am already teaching and make it even more blended.  This is why I decided to create a prototype for my AP Calculus course.  I also knew I wanted to use Google Classroom since my students are so familiar with it and our division encourages its use.  You can check out my course profile here for more details on how I laid it out for the semester.  I thought this course would be perfect because I see my students every day for a total of 60 classes before they write the big exam in May.  This gives me an opportunity to use the LMS of Google Classroom to enhance our time together and create more opportunities for learning online.  This will also help my students become more independent learners, which is incredibly important for their next years in university because they will all be headed in that direction.

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Screenshot of my course!

I began my course with the idea in mind of using a flipped model of instruction.  My students actually quite enjoy this model, but others do struggle to commit to the video lessons in their downtime.  It’s been a balancing act so far but I have used them as my guinea pigs for a couple of different assignments.  I wanted to use a flipped model because I knew it would open up more time for questions and for working through problems together in class which is really what my students need.  One of the suggestions on my peer review was to create a place for students to communicate with each other, so I introduced a question and answer Padlet in hopes that students would freely contribute to questions and supply answers to each other instead of relying only on me as their source of information.  If you want to see more about how my classmates’ reviews influenced my prototype, check out this blog post.

For the modules I created for this class, I wanted to focus more on simpler concepts (things my students would be able to learn from a video as well as hopefully not be too overwhelming for my peers in this course)!  I think I selected the right material and I have to say I learned a lot about myself as a teacher through this process as well.  Last year, I was made to focus solely on content.  Teach myself, teach the students, move on to giphy.gifthe next idea.  This year, I am much more relaxed and have been able to play around a lot more with my lessons and build new connections with the material as well as preparing my students even more for the exam.  I can look more into Khan Academy, create more formative assessments, and know better what my students need.  I knew I wanted to create short videos and have students follow along with notes where they could record the information.  This also allows them to go back, pause the instruction, and re-watch if they need to.  I think I gave ample practice and I even tried to implement some different formative assessments in Socrative and GoFormative.  If you feel like testing your math skills, try them out on my course!  The Google Classroom code is wnn06j and you need to log in using a Gmail account.  Feel free to check out the rest of my prototype as well including videos, assignments, and practice problems.  Also, feel free to check out my course walkthrough if you would rather a quick feel for my course prototype.

Overall, I’m really happy with how my prototype turned out.  For my second module, I focused on an entirely different unit and created an opportunity using Flipgrid for my students to actually show how they work through a problem.  I want them to explain their reasoning and their answer since that is such an important concept on the AP exam.  Another idea I had was to create a Padletstart where they could discuss ideas on how to solve a couple of problems we would look at in class anyways to act as a starting block on how to solve it.  Some of these problems can be really complicated so I want to create the easiest environment that I can to teach them in that it’s okay to be wrong and this is the best way we can learn.  One of the hardest things for my students to learn is that to get a “4 or 5” on the AP exam is to really achieve a pass.  Many of the practice problem average score is between 3 or 4 out of 9.  Teaching them the process and wording of these problems is crucial to their success on exam day and understanding that they only need to try every part of a question to succeed.  I included a section for practice exams as well as problems for them to work through on the prototype.  We also spend time in class working on these but the ability to access them outside of class time will be incredibly beneficial to my students.  The most important thing I am taking away from this assignment is that I am actually capable of creating a blended learning environment and it isn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be.  I would like to eventually blend all my courses in this manner because I think that is where education is heading.  Dean mentioned this quote on Twitter this week and I think it sums up exactly what we and this course are working towards:

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Past and Present Student Interaction

When I think of student-student interactions, I have flashbacks to my undergrad. Not necessarily a good flashback either.  I had a few courses with the “required discussion forum” where we needed to complete a reading or two or three, and then make comments or ask questions to our assigned groups.  We HAD to post at least three times a week, and it HAD to be connected to the reading and material we were learning in class.  Looking back, besides remembering that I HAD to do this type of assignment, I do not recall one single discussion topic we discussed.  giphy (5).gifIs it because it’s been a few years? Probably, but I bet if someone asked me two weeks after the course was over if I remembered any of the discussions, I bet I still wouldn’t be able to remember anything about them.  The Bates reading from this week made me realize, as well as aspects of this online course we are all taking, is that this form of discussion is completely inauthentic, and students do not care about things they don’t care about!  If you asked me what I wrote about on my EC&I 831 blog, I could tell you about most of the topics and I think that’s because I cared about the subject matter, it was connected to me, and I got to discover what I wanted to know more about!  The Bates article from this week’s reading stated that,

“Textbooks, readings and other resources are chosen to support the discussion, not the other way round. This is a key design principle, and explains why often instructors or tutors complain, in more ‘traditional’ online courses, that students don’t participate in discussions. Often this is because where online discussions are secondary to more didactic teaching, or are not deliberately designed and managed to lead to knowledge construction, students see the discussions as optional or extra work, because they have no direct impact on grades or assessment.”

I think the reason I don’t remember a single topic in those classes is because the discussion forum was always extra. It was additional work, instead of the discussion centering around ideas and questions, and FINDING the answers through readings and textbooks, we read first, and then added points about what we found.  I agree that it should be the other way around.  Fuel the discussion with ideas and supplement with resources!

This brings me to my point for the week.  My course is a blended course and I do see my students daily.  I’ll be honest; I didn’t think it was very important to include student-student interaction in my course, but after some feedback from my peers, and our class last week, my mind has been changed.  Harasim (2012) states that “[Online Collaborative Learning] theory provides a model of learning in which students are encouraged and supported to work together to create knowledge: to invent, to explore ways to innovate, and, by so doing, to seek the conceptual knowledge needed to solve problems rather than recite what they think is the right answer.”   The moment I read this statement, I thought “This is what my class is!”  I am teaching AP Calculus to a bunch of students who need to work together to solve problems and develop an understanding of the material so they can apply it to the exam, and NOT just recite the right answer! (Insert Happy Dance for making the class meaningful for my students!)giphy (6).gif

So I began thinking of ways I could encourage more student-student interaction online.  They collaborate daily on problems and assignments so it would be nice to extend it onto Google Classroom.  I think I will start with encouraging them to post their questions on the class stream and allow other students to reply with their ideas for answers.  To get this started, I might even post a couple of questions for them to work through online and to post their ideas on how to solve the problem, and not necessarily post the answer.

I also really like the idea of using Padlet for students to work through a problem together or even start a community where they can ask each other questions about the assignments and problems so that they do not have to ask me first.  The beauty of Padlet is that they can post descriptions, write something, take a picture or even insert a video or audio for an explanation or question.  What do you think?  Will it work?  I really think it would be a good example of the three phases: idea generating, idea organizing, and intellectual convergence that Alec discussed with us last week.  Hopefully I can get my students to go through all three phases with this idea!

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A screenshot of my new addition!

Another idea I might try since explanation and justification is a huge part of the AP exam is Flipgrid.  I might try getting students to answer a problem verbally and explain how they arrived at their answer, as well as justify how they know a certain answer is correct when-the-teacher-says-you-have-to-explain-your-answer-41186018as many questions give the answer, and the student needs to justify why it is correct.  I think this would be a great opportunity of students to discuss their reasoning and ideas of problem solving and for me to evaluate their reasoning skills for the exam!  This could also work as an assignment to show me how they walk through problems.  It might help me figure out their thinking and understanding more, as well as help them discover the important concepts in the problem at an individual level.

I know that student-student interaction is incredibly important, and I am hoping I can get my students to buy into the online discussion ideas.  If not this year, hopefully next year.  In the meantime, I will continue to try, and keep up with my ever-present student-teacher interactions via Remind 101, and the comment section on Google Classroom!  As the Bates article stated clearly, “with online collaborative learning, the aim is not to replace the teacher, but to use the technology primarily to increase and improve communication between teacher and learners, with a particular approach to the development of learning based on knowledge construction assisted and developed through social discourse.”  This is what I aim to do, and hopefully make more connections between my students, and help them become stronger advocates for themselves, and better learners.

The Many Techniques of Blended Learning

Hello fellow EC&I 834ers!  It’s been awhile!  Time to shake off the cobwebs on the keyboards and get back into the blogging spirit! This week, Alec’s prompt stumped me at first: “Take this week to read about/explore an aspect of online/blended learning that you are interested in, and then blog about it. This might include your thoughts/reactions to a particularly interesting article that you find, your own exploration of a mode/format/strategy for online/blended learning that we haven’t touched on, or your further research into a course topic that interests you.”  What do you mean I have to explore and think about something that I am interested in learning more about?  What do you mean there is no direction to this week’s blog post?  I had to stop and think.  I had to spend some time exploring the world wide web.  I had to figure out a direction and go with it!giphy (2).gif

Now, for those of you that have ever done the “team-building” personality test where your personality becomes a shape, I’m a square.  I don’t do well when there is no direction.  I like consistency, I like having a prompt, and I will complete the task, most likely in one shot because “chunking” and “working slowly on an assignment” has never been my cup of tea.  I procrastinate, and then I panic, and then I produce something pretty great that would have been a lot less stressful if I had started ahead of time, but it had to be the perfect idea before I began.  I digress.

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This personality of mine led to some colleagues of mine, namely Brad Raes and Logan Petlak, and we discussed some ideas for directions in this blog post.  From there, I hit the internet and decided I should watch at least one TED Talk because they are my favourite things to learn from so I found this one!  I liked it.

Monique Markoff discusses a lot about what we have already learned about blended learning and what it is versus what it is not.  She discusses the success rates of online courses versus blended environment courses, and her conclusion is that students learn more in a face-to-face environment and the technology should be used as a tool to the ideas, not the solution.  She also discusses some different versions of blended learning I had never heard of before, like the rotational model, and others I had, like the laboratory model, the open-classroom model, and the flipped classroom model.  A couple of these ideas were pretty familiar, notably the laboratory and the flipped classroom models.  What wasn’t familiar was the idea of a rotational model and all of a sudden, I had my idea for this week’s blog.  As soon as Markoff described it as “stations” I was interested and thought, “This is something I could use in my classrooms!”

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She asks four questions for those who are serious about beginning blended learning in their school:

  1. Are you flexible?
  2. Are you committed?
  3. What is your mindset and the mindset of your students?
  4. What is the role of the teacher?

I think these questions are an excellent starting point, because they make you think about what your purpose of using blended learning is and if you are truly looking to change your perspective and teaching theory in the classroom or just looking for a quick fix.  Markoff goes into detail explaining what these questions entail, and how difficult, time-consuming, and complicated it really is to integrate these ideas into a classroom.  It takes hard work, it takes trial and error and most of all, it takes time.  She mentions that many classrooms and schools tend to fear this idea, and do not want to fail with a model and so when it needs adjustments, it is simply thrown out and the old model comes back in.

It made me think that this blended learning idea might be more complicated that I originally thought.  It’s not something that is going to be perfect the first time around, and it is going to take a lot more research and development to work out just right.

After I finished the video, I continued with my question on what exactly the rotational model of blended learning is and was led to this article: Find The Model That Works For You: 12 Types Of Blended Learning.  My first thought was TWELVE!  THERE ARE TWELVE TYPES OF BLENDED LEARNING!!!  There were types I heard of and types I hadn’t.  To see the full capacity of each type, check out the article yourself, but for now these were the main types listed in the article:

  1. Station Rotationblended
  2. Lab Rotation
  3. Remote
  4. Flex
  5. Flipped Classroom
  6. Individual Rotation
  7. Project-Based
  8. Self-Directed
  9. Inside-Outside
  10. Outside-Inside
  11. Supplemental
  12. Mastery-Based

 

Now what I noticed as I read the article is that overall, every type had the same thing in common.  They are blended learning ideas and they involve technology as a way to support student learning.  It seemed intimidating but was far from it as I continued.

rotation-1The rotational models have my interest peaked mostly because I feel that this would be a fantastic goal for my AP Calculus students.  I would love to do sections of direct instruction, sections of a flipped model, group work and individual assessments online.  Students could work at their own pace, and work more on the concepts THEY struggle with because at that level, what my students need is practice and motivation.  I believe this model would provide some of that!  TeachThought defined “Station-Rotation blended learning is a: “…model (that) allows students to rotate through stations on a fixed schedule, where at least one of the stations is an online learning station.””  This is commonly used in elementary schools, but why couldn’t it be successful in a grade twelve classroom too!  I already do certain aspects of it, and students learn more from experiencing the skills themselves than from me explaining a complex theorem to them directly.  Once I read more about this idea, I knew it was familiar from the elementary idea of “stations” but this is more complex, using a variety of strategies and tools to teach concepts and ideas to students, on a fixed schedule, which I already have, but in their own way.

A second source from Reading Horizons defined the station rotation to be that “students move through modalities within a classroom.”  The following is how Reading Horizons defined it:

“Students learn using software or other online-based coursework on classroom computers. Students can do a variety of activities, including but not limited to previewing, completing, or reviewing skill lessons, reading stories, or taking computer-administered assessments. Through these kinds of tech-based activities, students have opportunities to work independently and privately, free from concerns about how they will perform in front of their peers.

For the offline part of their learning, students receive direct instruction from a teacher, followed up by a variety of activities, which could include modeled and independent reading, workbook pages or other pencil-and-paper tasks, one-on-one tutoring, small-group work, projects, games, flash cards—the list of possibilities is nearly endless.”

I see endless possibilities, not only in my math courses but also my English courses for this type of learning.  I never thought of using stations as a strategy in a high school classroom but I think it could work and very well!  Does anyone else have any experiences using this type of strategy in their classrooms?  Does it work with older students like it does with younger students? I am open to suggestions and will keep you updated on my progress with the implementation of my newfound blended learning technique!

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AP Calculus Course Debrief

Well, here goes nothing!  Last year was my very first year teaching AP Calculus.  There were a lot of ups and downs, and I mean a lot!  Trying to learn the content myself, teaching myself how to teach the content, helping students understand things that I was still trying to master myself, prepping them for an exam I had never seen, and nervously awaiting the test results in July.  It was a roller coaster!

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I know a lot more now, but do I have more to learn? ABSOLUTELY!  It was near the end of the course last year that I discovered the beauty of Khan Academy and I knew my life this year would be easier, which leads into my course outline for this project!  The timing couldn’t be more perfect and I am excited to really try out my ideas with different types of blended learning, using flipped lessons which my calculus students already showed an interest in last semester!  I’m looking forward to documenting everything that works and doesn’t work and really giving this course another shot, being a little more confident, and a lot more knowledgeable than last year!  I know lots of you are not going to understand one lick of this, but I’m hoping you can bear with me and my journey through my project.

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To see my course outline, check it out here and wish me luck! 🙂

Intro to EC&I 834

tumblr_inline_niqsekhbjx1qgt12i (1)Hi everyone!  I am so excited for another semester and become one step closer to completing my Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction!  This is my fifth course overall, and I can start to see the end!  This is my third class with Alec, and I’m looking forward to learning even more tools to test out in my courses.  I’m also looking for recommended courses to take next year so let me know if any of you have taken any gems lately!

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Emerald Lake, BC

I teach at Central Collegiate in Moose Jaw, and am in my sixth year of teaching.  Over my short career, I’ve taught a lot of different courses, and have finally settled into my chosen path of senior English, and Calculus.  I know, total opposites!  But I have loved teaching such different courses and challenging myself to teach in these completely different mediums.  Along with teaching these courses, I coach basketball and track and field at the school, and somehow find time to take a course every semester!  In my free time, I love reading and exploring this beautiful country of ours.

As I said before, I’m looking forward to learning all about online learning in this course.  My top three goals for the course are:

  1. Since I teach AP Calculus, I am hoping to be able to apply some of the learnings in this class to my own course as I would like to make it more of a blended course! Giving my students the best opportunities to prepare for the big exam is my main priority this year, as well as giving them as many resources as possible.
  2. I’m looking forward to learning about different mediums for creating/using online courses to further my students’ learning and my own.  Looking at different platforms will allow me to figure out what I like and don’t like about online learning as well as develop my own.
  3. I also want to further expand my Personal Learning Network by working with each of you, and exploring Twitter more in-depth.  I have a great network already, but I am always looking to expand it because, as I have learned since I started my master’s, that it is incredibly valuable for resources, support, and enhancing professional development.
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Via Flickr

I’m looking forward to the learning journey ahead and connecting with you all more as the semester goes on!  If you want to connect on Twitter my handle is @mackeyshelby21.

Shelby

 

 

Technology Is Equitable; People Are Not.

This week’s debate had me all over the place.  Thinking of the phrase: “technology is a force of equity in society” has many sides and angles to consider and there is not one straight answer: yes or no.  I found there was a lot of mixed reviews throughout our 1.gifdebate, and many elaborations for our reasons we think it is or isn’t.  For example, yes, technology can be a force of equity because it is creating opportunities where they were limited before or no, it is not a force of equity because there is not equal access around the globe.  These types of ideas were incredibly important to our debate this week, and I think through a lot of thinking post-debate, I have established that we may not be there yet, but we are working towards solutions for this inequity.

The agree side this week did a fantastic job opening the floor and I found myself agreeing with all the points that Jen, Dawn and Sapna shared.  Their major points included the removal of barriers in education and skills, the use of open education resources creating equality through education, and then focused on the idea that the corporate system is the reason that technology is inaccessible for people in a lower socio-economic status and not the tech itself, and not the tech’s fault itself, showing that the tech isn’t creating inequity, but people by making these devices which have now become a necessity, cost too much money to afford.people using smart phones sitting at a table

The disagree side of Amy S, and Rakan countered well including some important ideas I would have never thought about in my internal debate.  Their main ideas circled around tech creating bias, gender abuse, and racism online, as well as digital colonialism and economic inequality.

As a said before, I found myself agreeing with all the points the agree team shared.  I see technology remove barriers all the time in the classroom.  I actually once saw a two men sitting at Tim Horton’s using their cellphones and a translating app to communicate with their voices and have a real conversation.  It made me so happy that technology has been able to reach a point where we can communicate with one another and create friendships with people that do not necessarily share a common language.2.gif

As for the classroom, I know I would have been in a real bind if I did not have my technological resources for teaching.  I have taught A LOT of different subject matter and without open resources and the World Wide Web, my knowledge would have been much more limited as well as the material for my students would have been much simpler as I would be scrambling for activities and ideas on my own.  For example, my first year I original-846541-1taught Law 30.  Where did I turn but to the internet to find different ideas and resources to help supplement the material.  I even found an activity to look at the laws often broken in different fairy tales and create a trial for the characters.  Would I have been able to come up with this idea without technology?  No way!  It helped make my life less stressful and created equity in a situation where I was at a disadvantage.

There are also many assistive technologies out there to help students including Google Write&Read.  Many students struggle with getting their ideas on paper and these types of apps help create an equity in the classroom so they too, can reach the outcomes of other students.  However, access to these apps can be difficult if you do not have access to the technology which is what the disagree side countered.

3.gifCost is a major downside to education as well as creating equity in the classroom.  And like Amy R. said in her blog this week, Technology should be accessible to everyone because it has become essential to live.  It has become a basic human right to be able to access this information and these devices yet corporations will not lower the price on devices, making it difficult for people of a lower socio-economic status to get access.  People may argue that there is free access in libraries, and schools, but not everyone has direct access to a building like that.  Sunny Freeman’s article states that even in Canada, only 62% of low-income quartile has access to the internet and it is difficult to dispute.  Have you ever gone camping in a rural/northern part of Saskatchewan?  Little to no internet access or even service exists! 4 So like, the agree group said, we can fix this!  We just need to lower the costs on devices, and create more opportunities for access in order to lessen the digital divide felt everywhere in the world, not just Canada.

Daniel also made a great point in his blog this week: “Some affluent people thus think by simply dumping the highest tech in the poorest places in society, inequality will be solved.”  This will not solve our problem when there is no education to help those educators or students use the technology and unlock its potential for the classroom and for their future.  If we are going to increase technology use in the classroom, we need to also increase the professional development and resources for teachers to USE the technology as well.

UNRWA_Gaza5(2).jpgI think it is super important that if we are going to increase technology and use programs like One Laptop Per Child, they need to be used appropriately in order to avoid digital colonialism which is what Amy and Rakan hinted at in their opening video.  It’s a very thin line between introducing and advancing a third world country and pushing Western beliefs on an already established society.  For example, in this article, Facebook is offering free internet to places with low economic status but with a catch.

The following statement is from ‘It’s digital colonialism’: how Facebook’s free internet service has failed its users, and can definitely be considered a negative for what should be a positive movement towards digital inclusion:

“Free Basics is a Facebook-developed mobile app that gives users access to a small selection of data-light websites and services. The websites are stripped of photos and videos and can be browsed without paying for mobile data.

Facebook sees this as an “on-ramp” to using the open internet: by introducing people to a taster of the internet, they will see the value in paying for data, which in turn brings more people online and can help improve their lives.”

The catch is that they cannot access all the internet, only a few select sites and they need to pay more for more access.  This in my opinion does not create equity, but increases the divide showing “you can afford this” or “you can’t afford this.”  This idea is also restricting language, with the majority options being only in English, and if that’s not a Westernized view/Digital Colonialism, then I don’t know what is!

Dhanaraj “Thakur believes a better solution would be to give low-income groups a limited amount of free data to access the open web” and I agree.  Why not?  What is the harm?  Unless the corporations in charge have a hidden agenda behind enabling these communities with a more Western view.

Another solution to the idea of making education more accessible is Open Education Resources (OERs), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and Virtual Classrooms.  Having these types of resources online have created a lot of opportunity for remote classrooms and cities.  They may not have the resources physically, but they can access the information online ending the digital divide.

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Via Flickr

The article, Analysis: How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic shows how students and classrooms in Kotzebue, Alaska are able to still access high-quality materials within budget cuts and limited resources. Layla Bonnot says, “With OER, districts can adapt content to meet their local needs, maximize education budgets, and ensure access to resources and educational rigor. By being able to serve all students — whatever their race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background, or family income — OER supports the goal of educational equity.”

Of course, there are still other down-sides that are creating unequitable circumstances like the ideas of gender and racial bias online, and that AI could possibly be racist and learning its racist behaviours from humans, but I hope that we are moving in a positive direction away from these ideas.  Lizzie O’Shea stated in her article that technology’s biases are not bad necessarily, as long as we recognize them as such and move towards making these racial and gender roles more neutral.

0447f-thinkstockphotos-179079064O’Shea said,  “To make the most of this moment, we need to imagine a future without the oppressions of the past.  We need to allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected.  But we also need to look into the black mirror of technology and find the cracks of light shining through.”

And after listening to both sides of the debate, I couldn’t agree more.  We are imperfect, so our tech is imperfect too.  As long as we recognize our faults, and are trying to work towards solutions, then I think we are accomplishing something.  Is technology creating equity in society?  In some cases yes, and in some cases no.  Technology is not going anywhere, and it is becoming a more crucial part of life and should be demanded by all of society.  It has huge potential to create equity in all walks of life, but it is how we go about making sure it is accessible, fair, and neutral to everyone that is the most important part.

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Openness In Education Reality Check

This week’s debate really made me think.  I started somewhere in the middle; on one side, sharing is a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn important practices, share their accomplishments, and interact with other like-minded people around the globe.  On the other hand, sharing can create a lot of issues with privacy, as well as cyber-bullying and consent to use specific photos posted online. This dynamic created a lot of debate in our class this week, and honestly a lot of debate in my own head.  g

Whenever the ideas of privacy laws and practices come up, it can be a very controversial and scary idea. What if what we post is wrong? What if we get in trouble? Can I lose my job for this? There are no shortage of horror stories out there to scare teachers into 6.gifnever posting a single thing on the internet again; class or non-class related.  I too, often think and rethink what I share online about my students, which to be honest is very limited. Beyond team, athletic, and grad photos, I hardly post about my students online. Everything remains nameless and it is almost always acelebration of accomplishments.

I think the biggest struggle I had with this week’s debate was a lot of the focus was on the
elementary stand-point and teaching young students how to be responsible online.  What should you post?  What shouldn’t you post?  A lot of conversations circled around the idea of parents being super involved with their child’s tech use and also the teacher helicopter-parent-main-imageoverseeing the practices. Seesaw, I’ve learned, is a great tool to engage parents and create important conversations with kids at home.  This technology is awesome because it can often bridge the gap between school and home life.  However, there is the down side of over-involvement of parents and the idea of “helicoptering.”  In fact, Robyn Treyvaud states in her article, Dangers of Posting Pictures Online, that “more than 1 in 4 children admit to feeling worried, embarrassed, or anxious when their parents post photos of them on social media,” which goes beyond the idea of hovering or helicoptering.  I know many of my friends are having children right now and seriously, the amount of “baby spam” I see in a day is ridiculous and the consequences can be even more serious!  It’s something I don’t think my generation really understands, making it even more important for the next generation to comprehend!  What parents post, even at a very young age, can affect a child’s mental health later on in life?  It begs the questions, do you want the whole world to see a baby photo of you?

I think both sides of the debate did a fantastic job of making their case!  When it comes to my world in a high school, photos, technology and phones are everywhere.  We even have a school Snapchat and Instagram account run by the Spirit Committee, run by a print screen.pngcouple of awesome teachers!  My students are on their phones constantly; I use Remind 101 to contact students and my athletes for various things like deadlines, practice changes, or just general reminders for the next day.  It allows my students to connect me as well without directly having my phone number. I also use Google Classroom for all the students’ homework, assignments, deadlines, and I also used it for Track and Field this year – creating an online platform for athletes to access permission forms, schedules, dates, and results.  It worked fantastically and never thought twice about using these online platforms with my students. However, everything I use and do online is “private.” I’m not sharing student photos to the internet, not posting on Twitter about our interactive activities, and although I feel my students are safe because of this, maybe I’m not properly preparing them for the online world?

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My Google Classroom!

I feel like it is my responsibility to help teach and guide my students through this online world they have become accustomed to.  I loved Amy’s point this week: “We need to stop
telling students how to live, but instead empower them to make the correct decisions regarding technology. We want students who use their powers for good, we do not want passive students.  Teachers can have an influence.
”  I think especially at the high school
level, students need to be empowered and use technology for good, like Amy said, instead of being the passive “likers” online.

Randi Zuckerberg stated in his article that, “technology and the world around us is evolving so quickly that even children a few years apart may experience two very different forms of childhood.” And I think this couldn’t be more true.  I know my childhood was vastly different than kids today and even looking at my current students.  I graduated high school nine years ago, and THINGS HAVE CHANGED.  EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED! I think it’s important that we don’t shut down these differences and Online-Worldinstead we embrace them, because if we don’t, they we run the risk of not helping our students be successful in the outside world. Their world is online, and it will continue to be for the rest of their lives.  They need to learn how to adapt and post appropriately online and protect themselves.  It lends itself to the idea that we cannot protect our students by banning the internet or posting pictures online because what is that teaching them?  They will rebel, and in turn post inappropriately online because they were never taught, nor was it modeled for them.

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I think digital literacy and creating a positive digital footprint is incredibly important for students.  What is the first thing their employer will do? Google them. What is the first thing someone just getting to know them will do?  Google them. They need to understand that their online identity will exist online whether they want it to or not. If they do not create it for themselves, and twist it into the story they want to tell, someone else will tell the story for them.  I think once students understand this concept, the rest becomes more simple than we think.

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It becomes about education, about what they want a future spouse, family, employer, etc. to see online. There are many dangers to the online world, but the opportunities and positives far outweigh these negatives.  “Students are, for the most part, growing up in this digital world without any explicit or universally adopted rules about how to behave, and there is little guidance available to adults. As our digital connections and interactions grow, the lines between our education and personal lives, our career and private activities, become blurred” (EdTek White Paper, 1) and it is our job to help advocate for ourselves and for our students online.  I know after this week, I am going to try to be more involved with their online world and help my students navigate it.  I feel as though it is my responsibility as an educator to do this much for them and prepare them for their future, and their online portfolio that is all their own and no one else’s.

To Google or Not to Google

Should we focus on teaching things that should be googled?  I still stand by my debate team and say a resounding yes!  For our debate, we decided to focus on three key ideas:

  1. Critical Thinking Skills Without the Aid of Google
  2. Memorization Holds a Key Part in Education and in Life
  3. Google is Hindering Our Ability to Concentrate and Focus

To watch our introduction video, click here!

After the debate, I realized there is even more we could have focused on, including the einsteinidea of “fake news” and our students’ ability to interpret it, and the idea of curiosity as a skill.  I touched on this slightly in my closing statements, but I hold strong on the idea that children and teenagers NEED to be curious!  If they are not curious with their ideas, then where is the creativity?  Where is the innovation?  Where are the skills that they will NEED in the future?  The “agree” team posted a video: Knowledge is Obsolete, so Now What? spoken by Pavan Arora and I do agree with them.  Some knowledge is becoming obsolete, but not all of it is obsolete.  Key math skills, and basic understanding of the English language are incredibly important!  And whether my students believe it or not, they will need to add, subtract, create ratios, convert measurements and be able to do it quickly and will not always have the assistance of their phones.

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Examples of the consequences of bad grammar!

autoWhen it comes to English and writing skills, everyone will need to know how to properly write an email, a cover letter, and important text messages.  You cannot text your boss that you are ill, and send something full of abbreviations and misspellings.

Of course, Pavan’s argument goes beyond this.  He discusses the idea that children of today, will not have jobs that exist today, so how do we educate them so that they are ready?  He states our job is to “teach our children how to access knowledge, how to assess knowledge and how to apply knowledge.”  Our group never stated that teachers should not use google or that students should be banned from using it for research.  Our focus was to use it with purpose and not simply answer students questions by saying “google it.”  Students need to use their critical thinking skills first and develop their own opinions before they start accessing the internet and using someone else’s opinion for make their opinion.  Things like facts, should be checked and students need to figure out how to weave the web to find the good stuff, the right stuff and make educated decisions based on the information found.

The same goes for memorization.  Imagine having a conversation with someone who didn’t know the basics of the discussion and everything they had to say, had to come from google.

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These ideas of fact checking have their place, but it is much easier if we teach certain skills and basic understandings so that students CAN apply the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Memorization is the base of the levels so students need some ideas or thinking critically or innovative will not happen easily!

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Students always ask me why we have to study Hamlet.  I’ve thought about it, and is it necessary, no, but is it relevant, absolutely.  I tell my students, what better way to learn than from a story.  There are many life lessons from Hamlet that can be applied to the real world, and probably some irrelevant information as well but sometimes a piece of literature can help a student through a situation or they find a quote that really means something to them, and they hold onto it.  In a world where mental health is a huge concern and we are trying to advocate for it, I show my students Hamlet – a depressed character who has been through a lot (the murder of his father and the marriage of his mother and uncle) voicing how sad he is, and no one listens.  We discuss the importance of listening to each other and helping each other.  He even has soliloquys about dying and wanting to die.  Some of my students can unfortunately relate to that so we discuss the ideas of suicide and how Hamlet really feels right now.  We talk about mental health and the differences between then and now and I would say it’s the most important thing we discuss in my class.  to beAnd you know what, they don’t forget it.  I have students come back and tell me, it is still their favourite Shakespeare play and they still remember the story!  Of course, there are also ideas of following through with your actions and thinking before you act; watching the effect you have on others around you, and many other life lessons that are better experienced through literature than life itself (I mean, I don’t think anyone wants to plot the murder of their uncle and see what consequences follow, so probably better to read about it 😉 )I think Shakespeare also helps interpret language we don’t understand, students have to find meaning in it, and it helps them understand bigger ideas, and see how far our language has really come and it’s awesome to watch!

This example also leads into our third argument about deep-reading and reading for understanding.  Of course, the internet and the process of skimming are valuable skills but so is reading and actually remembering what you read.  I know I struggle to focus on the computer, especially for long articles or even books online.  If I print them; totally different story!  Anyone else??  The idea of reading and understanding is becoming a lost art and I know my students struggle with it.  Lots of them turn to Sparknotes or other websites to tell them what happened in the novel instead of reading it themselves which can be really frustrating as a teacher.  5There is so much more to a piece of writing than just the summary and it can help them become better writers, and critical thinkers if they actually attempt to interpret the writing for themselves.  Even looking at the ideas of themes or choices characters make can help them deeply in terms of their depth of knowledge and understanding of other people.  In Is Google Making Us Stupid, Nicholas Carr makes an excellent stating, “our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” when we are browsing the internet.  I think he is 100% correct.  I know the “agree” team argued this point stating that it’s a different type of skill we are gaining and I totally agree.  And I think it is excellent that we can skim dozens of articles to find something meaningful to use for our own research but I’m also talking about stories and books and those need to be read to be truly understood.  Deep reading is a valuable skill and one I’m worried we will lose if we don’t continue to make kids read!  What will happen to all the old literature, the beautiful stories, and even our own history if we only skim it in the future?

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So to conclude, I still think there is a place for memorization and facts in the classroom.  There is value in teaching things that can be found on the internet.  Do I think we should erase the internet all together?  NOPE!  It’s not going anywhere and we do need to teach our students to be responsible digital citizens and be able to navigate the web responsibly and effectively for information.  It all depends on your purpose.  And honestly, if we are teaching students that the first response to a question is to google it, I don’t think we are teaching them correctly.  We should let them be curious, think about the answer, find their own idea, and then turn to the internet because that will have more meaning, they will remember the lesson more, and they will automatically think more deeply and critically about the response they found if it contradicts their own.

Does Tech Enhance Learning in the Classroom?

To say that technology enhances or does not enhance learning is a complicated question.  We live in the day and age of technology, and as educators, it is our responsibility to teach for the future and that future includes technology.  I think a big part of having technology in the classroom enhances learning.  This year alone, I have found myself relying more and more on it to help my students learn effectively.  For example, with my

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Calculus class, I was relying heavily on Khan Academy to help supplement my students’ learning.  It was my first time teaching it, so there was a lot of “learning together” going on.   I was also using graphing calculators and apps to help my students visualize first, and then internalize what certain graphs look like so when it came time for the big exam in May, they wouldn’t even need to look at a calculator to know the behaviors of certain functions.One of the biggest factors to integrating technology in the classroom that we debated on Monday was cost.  It costs a lot of money to integrate a new set of laptops, or a new program, or a new app.  I’m lucky at Prairie South that we do not have the 1:1 rule that many of the Regina teachers were discussing on Monday.  However, the tech accessibility at Central is limited.  We have three working computer labs, and at this point, they are all

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being used as classrooms for majority of the day so booking into one is nearly impossible!  We also have two sets of chrome books, which are awesome….but slow.  The Wi-Fi is not the most reliable in the school which can render the chrome books almost useless in the hour of time we get to use them.  As a result, I definitely do not use tech in my classroom as frequently as I’d like.

However, I am pro-tech in the classroom as there are so many benefits to using it!  Vawn Himmelsbach at TopHat.com stated these 6 pros to using tech in the classroom:

  • Using technology in the classroom allows you to experiment more in pedagogy and get instant feedback.
  • Technology in the classroom helps ensure full participation.
  • There are countless resources for enhancing education and making learning more fun and effective.
  • Technology can automate a lot of your tedious tasks.
  • With technology in the classroom, your students have instant access to fresh information that can supplement their learning experience.
  • We live in a digital world, and technology is a life skill.
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Via Pinterest

The last one is the most important one to me.  Knowing that my students live in a world of technology, teaching digital citizenship is the crucial to their success in the bigger world.  With so much access to technology, I love teaching my students how to research properly, how to think critically about what they are reading online, and how to search for things effectively.  I encourage them to use sites like Khan Academy (I actually linked it to my Google Classroom this semester, and used their AP Calculus prep course to help my students study for the exam), SparkNotes and No Fear Shakespeare (for when my students miss a reading or just need more help understanding the language) to help enhance their understanding of course content.

My favourite is being able to teach the teenagers in my classroom those important life lessons when it comes to cellphone usage.  We discussed a lot on Monday about appropriate use of cellphones and how to structure it.  I allow cellphones in my classroom, and I often have students working on projects, connecting to my Google Classroom, or reading on their phones.  However, I am not naïve that they are “only” doing school work.  We discussed the idea of multi-tasking and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for students.

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The fact that I teach high school influences my opinion and I believe that they need to learn how to multi-task effectively because as teachers and adults, we are expected to multi-task daily.  Of course, I reprimand students for being on their cellphones while I am delivering a lesson, but when it comes time to their individual work time, I allow them to figure out a balance that works for them.  As long as they are on task most of the time, cellphones are allowed — otherwise, they lose the privilege.  They need to learn for themselves when is the appropriate and inappropriate times for their usage.  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stated, “it seems inevitable that some sort of hand-held wireless device will eventually become part of education systems across the country” in the Maclean’s article: Don’t give students more tools of mass distraction, so why not embrace this change?  If we fight it, what are we really doing?  We are hindering our students’ abilities to be able to use their mini-computers in effective ways, rather than as just a social connection tool.  Would you not rather teach students about all the tools and information that is out there and give them access, as well as teach them how to effectively use it to create something big?

Thinking_Face_Emoji_largeStudents learn from teachers more effectively and will remember a story, or an experience much more than something they read once on a device.  So why wouldn’t you want to us this knowledge and power to teach students the “how-to”, the “why”, and teach them to ask questions about the tech world and what they see, and the social do’s and don’ts of society, instead of leaving them to discover it on their own?

The Beginning of My New Sewing Career

It all started with an idea, and a need to be able to sew.  I knew this skill would serve me later in life and come in handy, then I remembered a pin I made back in my early university days to make a t-shirt quilt and there it was: my brilliant idea for a learning project and I couldn’t have been more excited!!

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I started off by testing out my hand-sewing skills and after a few trial and errors and re-watching a couple of videos, I felt like I had the hang of it.  To begin, I know I was reliant on my mother for reassurance because as noted in other blogs, I am a slight perfectionist…I crave perfection and the idea that I can learn from making mistakes is absurd.  If I make mistakes often enough, I will quit.  It’s been my nature from a young age, and this project really challenged me to be okay with making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes.  Beginning with hand-sewing was a slow and confidence building technique I needed to start this massive project!  The great thing about hand-sewing was it was easy to fix mistakes and redo stitches.  I was able to do this quite a few times until I felt like I had gained a comfortable understanding of threading a needle, making a stitch, and sewing buttons.

IMG_2034Then came the real test.  I began my quilting process.  I did not expect there to be as many steps as there were and beginning on the sewing machine was terrifying and infuriating.  I know when I get frustrated, I need to step away.  The sewing machine was frustrating and annoying to figure out, but with some help from Youtube and my mother, I got the hang of the ancient machine.  What I don’t think I mentioned in my blogging was that I tapped into my school resources and borrowed a sewing machine from the school.  SO MUCH EASIER!!!  I am so grateful l did this, as I am confident my quilt would not have turned out as nicely and I would have ran into a lot more problems and would have needed to troubleshoot a lot more.

I had to select my shirts, and then cut them all, which was again super time-consuming.  It was at this point in the project that I was questioning my idea and questioning whether I would have enough time to finish.  I used my grandma’s tools and advice for cutting and interfacing the t-shirts.  In this, I also learned that I like to take a lot of different ideas for how to accomplish a task, and work it into something that makes sense to me.  I received advice from my grandma, ladies at the quilt shop, and the internet.  From these sources, I combined methods to complete my quilt in a way that made the most sense to me.  Having advice from so many sources could get confusing, but I also enjoyed having different options and ideas for how to complete this quilt successfully.

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GIF via Mashable

When I was cutting the t-shirts, I struggled at first with being perfect once again.  Knowing what I know now, the edges DO NOT MATTER!  I could have saved a lot of time as most of the edges end up as ruffles in my quilt.  I also would have sewed the interfacing on first and then cut!! Even when I did make mistakes cutting, I kept going and convinced myself that it would all work out in the end.  By the time I started cutting the flannel, I was set!  I persevered, and this is not something that I would normally do, but this project pushed me to just keep going and figure out how to fix the mistakes I made. 

IMG_2161Once the cutting was finished, I feared making mistakes on the sewing.  I pinned my flannel to my t-shirts, and I began sewing.  It wasn’t even that bad!  Again, I needed reassurance that I was doing okay and my mother was a great support to answer every call or she was there just to make sure.  This support and reassurance was key to my success because I probably would have struggled more or even questioned my methods has she not been there.  I found having a person to directly talk to, bounce ideas off of, and reassure my work an incredible resource and helpful for the success of the project.  It wasn’t a constant, “Am I doing this right?” but a gentle “good work” which is what everyone needs on occasion.

Once the individual squares were cut, the quilt flew together and I couldn’t have been happier with the way it turned out!  It was difficult to sew together because it was so thick but I now I have the coziest quilt to curl up with at night!

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I learned a lot about my learning style in this process.  I found out that this is not relaxing at all, and until I gain more experience, I will not find it relaxing.  The most stressful part of the project was thinking I would screw up and upon thinking more

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Lily’s Quilts

about it, I figured out why.  I was working with t-shirts, but not just any t-shirts.  These shirts hold a lot of meaning, and memories for me.  If I screwed up, the shirt and the memory was gone.  This was a high pressure project because it was SO meaningful for me.  I’m grateful I took the risk, but I feel that if I was using regular material, I would have been more relaxed with making mistakes and not as rigid.  I learned that I am an independent learner, and I enjoy things I can do on my own that give my brain a break from a stressful day of teaching, as well as challenge me in other ways.  It was nice to break routine, and make time to learn a new skill.  Overall, I really enjoyed this project and I learned a lot about sewing and about myself as a learner!

If you’d like to see the whole thing unfold, here is the link to my project! Until next time!  Thanks for stopping by!