Category Archives: teacher

Dialled in, plugged in, and loving life.

Look up“.

Great advice for some, but not all. I think in some cases, we need try to reflect on the value of looking down… and what looking down allows us to do – connect, answer, and learn. Yes, we can go to a concert and hear musicians tell us to unplug and live in the moment, and we need to, but what about getting a video of Chris Martin singing “Fix You” for your friend who couldn’t be there because they were sick?

Some moments don’t need a camera and there is value in appreciating things without a digital record… but, like every other debate we’ve had, we need balance, moderation, and an open mind. Is taking a video of a child’s first steps also not living in the moment? Or is it an opportunity to reflect and relive the moment years later? Humanity is evolving, constantly rewiring the hardware of our brains, and with this includes modern connectedness and socialization which occurs by looking down and utilizing our technology and devices. We are comfortable with looking down when it helps us learn with PLNs or to help facilitate learning and friendships, but are quick to antagonize it when people don’t appreciate moments the way we might want them to. There is a challenge to begin to recognize that who we are today involves a link between offline to online life. This is echoed by the concept of augmented reality, and as we learn about what our digital footprints are, and adjust our digital identity to improve this, we improve our IRL identity as a result… we project a better us to live up to. (But this can create pressure to please, so we need to continue to reflect and be fair to ourselves).
Optimism versus the facts against being plugged in.

“Plugging in” has been called a way to avoid dealing with loneliness,

Loneliness_(4101974109)

Loneliness via Wikimedia Commons

but perhaps it is rather an opportunity for less boredom, two states of mind that are, at times, difficult to differentiate from one another. I would seek to argue that perhaps we are more engaged and stimulated than ever before, but is there a backlash to this? We are all capable of multi-tasking and some evidence points to the idea that I am, in fact, wrong. Having too much going on at once is imposed by tech and causes higher levels of stress… including how connected we are and the inherent expectations for shorter response times. I would argue that I feel efficient when I get a lot done in a day, and am capable of getting a lot of things done thanks to technology, and have a lot of positive means of coping with the potential stress that occurs as a result. I want to be involved and I feel fulfilled when I am… or am I just afraid of missing out?

Fear of missing out is a reality for some, and some may tell you that technology is making this worse, but there is also learning to be had when struggling with this this fear. Speaking from personal experience through toddler to teenager, I have been completely wrapped up in what others are doing, and over time learned to accept the things I may be missing out on for what is more important, isn’t that what growing up is and has been for some time? Some argue that technology can be an addiction, observing others make trips home to retrieve devices that, without, individuals would feel naked. I have a hard time agreeing that technology is an addiction, we have it to connect and it is something that we feel improves or is needed in our lives. How is this different than applying the argument to being addicted to our cars or other modes of transportation? It is a part of our lives that improves our lives, and the fact that I feel that I “need” it to get to work wouldn’t be considered addiction or “bordering on obsession”, so many things would therefore border on obsession. My love of hockey, teaching, cats, and my family, borders on obsession. However, the points listed above make my life better, no question about it. Does being plugged in actually make my life better?

Does being plugged in legitimately make your life better?

Does being plugged in make your students’ lives better?

If you think it doesn’t, then stay unplugged.

For me?

I am dialled in.

I am plugged in.

I am educate-in.

And I am loving life.

 

EC&I 830, have a great summer.

Logan Petlak

 

 


Good intentions and what is morally just make EdTech equitable.

Equity versus equality.

Equity involves an attempt to level the playing field for all as exemplified in the picture below.

equality doesnt mean equity

Health Equity via CommunityView.ca

The importance of this concept was made more apparent in the presence of “straight pride week” posters and social media posts appearing recently in light of pride week… and people sometimes fail to make the connection that equality is not equality without equity. And despite the use of social media to spread this hate and discrimination, technology still can be used as a force for equity.

straight pride

Straight Pride Posters Removed via Worldnow

 

 

Equity, education, technology and well-intentioned actions.

Technology can be a force for equity in society. It can provide health and learning alternatives for those at risk or at a disadvantage and seek to level the playing field for individuals. These actions are practised with good intentions for helping others. Some emphasize that using these technologies widens the achievement gap between rich and poor students and that may be the case in some instances, exacerbating socio-economic divides. Well-intentioned actions (more on this next week) can lead to further issues and may place importance on skills related to certain forms of technology that may make individuals more equipped for life in another culture rather than helping them to develop their own. As it applies to education, every effort needs to be made to educate our youth to put them in the best position to be successful learners and citizens, and while there are potential repercussions, decisions made in good conscience/faith need to be encouraged while productive feedback is provided. Well-intentioned actions may be flawed, but with the students in mind and the potential for enhancement of their learning, the process of integrating these technologies is worth practising. Technology, apps, robots and devices are developed with the intention to serve a need in society and many of these needs today are to bridge gaps, regardless of the paycheck associated with it (there is a host of issues with that as well, however). Just as there are needs in society, there are needs in the classroom. Literary needs, language needs, even motor skill needs. 

Socio-economic divides, do these technologies actually help?

Technology in the classroom may not actually improve performance in classrooms. And the introduction of these new technologies when made available to all will likely only be used by those with the resources to acquire it. This doesn’t mean it isn’t worth creating or practising. By that logic, a new, expensive, potentially life-saving practice for heart disease shouldn’t be allowed or encouraged as it will further push the divide as rich people with heart disease will be able to live longer while those who cannot afford it may not be able to. Morally, all should have access to it, but is our reality consistent with this? No. And there is the potential that this technology can someday be made more accessible for all. But for now, one student, even if there are rich that has a learning disability and there is an app that helps them learn, it’s worth it. I understand the associated issues with what the creation and subsequent use of technologies provide, but what is the potential solution then? Equal/equitable access for all so that these technologies may not be privatised? Complete societal upheaval and restructuring? It’s not feasible. I don’t intend to be pessimistic, mind you, quite the contrary. The creation and use of these technologies for health and learning present an opportunity for learning and well-being… and when these occur, equity can follow and I am optimistic despite potential short-term gap widening, the benefits and morality of equitable tech casts a shadow over it.

 

The moral question I ask is: Is an act done with good intentions and is morally just, but has potential consequences, wrong?

A loaded question. And while bad decisions have been made in the past with good intentions, with the right research and preparation, the moral good that technology can provide in the learning and health for some outweighs the potential gap-widening problems.

Debatable, no doubt. Thoughts?

Logan Petlak


Just Google it? Just Google it right. Building from simple to complex.

Statement: Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled.

logo_no_google

No2Google Logo via No2Google.com

 

Disagree.

The picture below isn’t necessarily related, but it was one of the pictures that came up when I searched, “Yes Google”, and I feel compelled to use it… it helps if you imagine Psy singing “Heeeeeyyyyyyy educators, Goo, Goo, Goo Goo. Google ain’t so bad”. This builds into my post, while illustrating both the problem and potential solution of simply “googling it”.

2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival - Day 1 - Show

LAS VEGAS, NV – SEPTEMBER 21: Rapper Psy performs onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel retrieved via Business Insider)

Building from simple to complex googling.

Apart from the fact that so much can be Googled (and Googled and found mistakenly, as seen in picture above), the policing of instruction to avoid this next to impossible. However, like any potential problem-causer, it provides opportunity. How do we roll with this? How do we make a positive out of a negative? How do we build from simple to complex?

Terry Heick visited the thought that: “complex questions can’t be googled.” He went on to state that the answer Google provides can be a stopping point… and that it “… creates the illusion of accessibility,” or “obscures interdependence of information.” All valid. This can happen from simply using Google without education, but it reminded me of Dave Cormier’s details on using MOOCs appropriately through the cynefin framework and the rhizomatic learning… specifically that answering complex questions requires a particular approach to learning, that we as educators can seek to facilitate. Terry Heick then concludes with an awesome point that alludes to this need for educators and highlights the importance of teaching about proper use of Google and why Googlable (new word?) concepts should be taught in schools: “none of this (the above concerns) is Google’s fault.” Educators (and parents, for that matter) bear the responsibility to inform students of how to use technology like Google and Wikipedia to foster ideas and “cultivate curiousity”. So much can be Googled, so teach students to think critically, and recognize that every teacher can do this regardless of grade or specialization, as evidenced here, and through digital citizenship as Jeremy Black referenced.

Connecting critical thinking to maximizing Google.

“Before students can think critically, they need to have something to think about in their brains.” Ben Johnson made this comment, and used it to remind us of the importance of memorization and still keeping this as part of instruction. This speaks to the baseline knowledge that may come from using Google and other information sources. Finding the simple answers that “Googling it” may provide is the beginning to deeper parts of cognitive function in individuals, leading to fostering curiosity that I made reference to before. My phrase I tend to use in course outlines in senior science echoes the overlap between memory, critical thinking and curiosity: “in order to remember these terms, I will push you understand these terms.” This simply reflects my angle of looking at it, but there are many ways to aid in memory.

 

Final thoughts

Ultimately, the proper use of “Google” falls to educators to ensure students continue to ask complex questions and follow links to continue pursuing knowledge and continue to connect to new ideas with that new knowledge. Memory may play a dominant role in this process providing the fundamental information that sets a foundation to curiosity and challenging complex questions.

 

Agree? Disagree? Comment!

– Logan Petlak


EdTech in class doesn’t just enhance learning, it IS learning.

Someone once said to me (yes, “said”, this definitely isn’t an assigned question I read), “Technology in the classroom enhances learning”. My first thought was, “yes, of course it is, it’s silly to think otherwise…”

 

petlak couros special.JPG

“Logan Petlak reflecting” via Camera of Samsung Galaxy S5

Then I reflected on it a bit…

 

..

.

.

..

nothing changed.

Statement still is accurate.

Why do I think that?

Well, I would argue that technology in the classroom today is learning. Regardless of the mechanisms students use to grasp the content embedded in our curriculum, technology plays a role one way or another. Be it delivering the students to educational institutions, how they get their nutrition for the day, or utilizing apps, programs, and devices to foster learning. Don’t get me wrong, there are problems within its use and a need for doubt, as Greg Toppo reminds us about humanity’s tendencies, “we always fret about technology”. We need the doubt to continue to grow and check ourselves, but we can’t deny the importance of technology and the learning inherent within.

The learning extends beyond simply curricular content. Technology is a force for connectedness in the modern world. When considering the circle of courage below, I could connect it to each of the dimensions of it connecting to Digital Citizenship. Belonging through social media, independence through responsible device use, generosity with commenting and sharing with others, and mastery in the procurement of curricular knowledge and outcomes.

CofCLabeled

Circle of Courage via BehaviorAdvisor.com

“using technology promotes sense of belonging and interactive participation in the classrooms for children with learning disabilities”  – Bryant and Bryant, 1998

The above quote speaks to me as a student advocate and reinforces the connection to the circle of courage. Developing that sense of belonging is consistent with it and is a critical part of development for all youth. And this belonging occurs in technology in the form of social media today.

 

Devil’s advocate: For the doubters.

Now I know there may be student advocates or doubters thinking… “But Logan, what about the students who are in the classroom who don’t have access to phones in BYOD (bring your own device) settings?” Fine. Devil’s advocate? Yes, some students will not have devices and this raises questions of further increasing the wealth and technology gap in the classroom. And yes, BYOD can exacerbate that, but in province-wide school divisions facing cutbacks or lean spending models being approached, can it afford purchasing devices for all, probably not, but some, be it through donation or purchase for need in the classroom. We are obligated as educators to keep students educationally literate and up to speed on current learning (technology, by extension), and we can minimize education spending whilst teaching students to use their own tools or hand-me-downs from another to stay connect an learn. If anything, the arguments against BYOD enforces the importance of devices in the classroom, the students need to at least learn about it here if not at home. Fact: Inequity will always be present between student in our schools… so as educators, rather than blanket money spending for every single student, follow the example of modified, adaptation and differentiated instruction and simply provide necessary tools to those that need it, and adjust instruction accordingly. And this doesn’t even consider the adaptations with technology, as Justine puts it, “all of the different technology can lead to equity for students in the classroom.”

But, Logan, what about ___________________”.

“The need more PD (professional development) for using EdTech” “Most teachers want to learn to use educational technology effectively, but they lack the conceptual framework, time, computer access and support necessary to do so”. I have a hard time agreeing with this. Arguments can be made both ways, but for me, my biggest point of contention is “time”. One of the benefits of technology in terms of knowledge acquisition is that it takes less time looking online than travelling to a library or accessing a textbook. Maybe the information on how to use it isn’t there, however, so logic would denote there should be professional development for this. Interesting idea, but at what cost? And what aspect of technology do you target? Phones? Apps? Computers? Programs? Existing PD on working with language learners may utilize this technology anyway (if not, plan accordingly). Not to mention, if EdTech PD isn’t a perceived need in the entire division, is it worth making a specific priority? If most PD’s themselves incorporate tech, then this should happen unconsciously and simultaneously and not require increased spending (in tight budgets, as referenced before).

“Technology reducing performance” – Comparing “performance” in the critique of the use of technology, and what I fail to see is the assessment means… is it consistent with the circumstances in which learning took place? Same content, different written/technological delivery, same written assessment? I have a hard time seeing an immediate correlation without explicit details on the assessment means.

 

Final thoughts

As I said, we need doubts about what technology involves. But the fact is that learning and working today requires technology, and to ignore that or avoid it as an educator does a disservice to our students… especially if they come from a device-free background.

What are your thoughts? New technology can have new detriments or roadblocks to learning? But is it just the struggles of our times? Comment!

– Logan Petlak