Category Archives: Weekly Posts

The end is near…wait, what? It’s here?

Surprised Kenan Thompson GIF

What a journey it has been over the last five years while first completing my Inclusive Education Certificate and then taking the plunge to complete my master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.  Although it has been a long one, this endeavour has been such a rewarding experience for which I have not only learned how to become a better educator, but I have learned a lot about myself.  In addition to these learning experiences, I have met and connected with a plethora of other educators and professors that have positively impacted my world.  To you, I thank you!

As for my summary of learning of my last class,  I have partnered up with a good friend and colleague (again!) to put together a visual collage, an audio smash-up, and a historical musical journey to capture our learnings from this semester.

I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you to you, Alec, for being a foundational instructor through my master’s journey for which I enjoyed taking four classes.  I appreciate the freedom you gave us to explore new things, take risks with new tools, adventure into our own self and reflect on who we are while connecting it to the engaging topics of discussion.  You build an immense sense of community that goes far beyond our class cohort and connected us to theories, pedagogies, and practices that will continue to influence and impact the way that I work with students and their families along with my own colleagues.

See Ya GIF

The end is near…wait, what? It’s here?

Surprised Kenan Thompson GIF

What a journey it has been over the last five years while first completing my Inclusive Education Certificate and then taking the plunge to complete my master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.  Although it has been a long one, this endeavour has been such a rewarding experience for which I have not only learned how to become a better educator, but I have learned a lot about myself.  In addition to these learning experiences, I have met and connected with a plethora of other educators and professors that have positively impacted my world.  To you, I thank you!

As for my summary of learning of my last class,  I have partnered up with a good friend and colleague (again!) to put together a visual collage, an audio smash-up, and a historical musical journey to capture our learnings from this semester.

I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you to you, Alec, for being a foundational instructor through my master’s journey for which I enjoyed taking four classes.  I appreciate the freedom you gave us to explore new things, take risks with new tools, adventure into our own self and reflect on who we are while connecting it to the engaging topics of discussion.  You build an immense sense of community that goes far beyond our class cohort and connected us to theories, pedagogies, and practices that will continue to influence and impact the way that I work with students and their families along with my own colleagues.

See Ya GIF

Assistive Technology, Barriers to Hurdle Over

As outlined by the Megan, Leigh, Jenny, and Kalyn in their presentation on assistive technology last week, there are three types of AT that we can use specifically in a school setting.  This includes:

Low-Tech – lightweight, portable, limited capabilities, simple features, inexpensive, limited to no training needed

Mid-Tech –  requires a battery source, relatively inexpensive, limited to know training relatively simple to operate

High Tech – permits storage and retrieval of messages/information, digital or electronic components, typically computerized, require training and effort to learn how to use, expensive

Source

As an LRT, assistive technology is something that I am constantly considering when addressing concerns that teachers have with students.  Difficulties accessing curriculum are due to a variety of reasons including health, social/personal well-being, communication, and regulation to name a few.  The purpose of assistive technology is for students to be independent, be in control of their environment, and improve skill acquisition.  This will inevitably increase attention span, problem-solving skills, confidence, motivation, and engagement.  Students need to see themselves as capable Do This I Can GIF by Ramsey Solutionsreaders, writers, thinkers, and communicators.  It may take some conventional and unconventional tools and methods in order to achieve this.  It will also take careful observations, trialing, collaboration, and consistency for specific tools to be considered successful or unsuccessful.  To elaborate more on that, I’d like to touch on some barriers or limitations that impact the effectiveness and efficiency of assistive technology.

Copley and Ziviani, highlight the barriers and limitations to the use of assistive technology for children with multiples disabilities in their study done in 2004.  They’ve identified the following barriers to AT which include the lack of appropriate staff training and support, negative staff attitudes, inadequate assessment and planning processes, insufficient funding, difficulties procuring and managing equipment, and time constraints.

Staff training and attitudes

Copley and Ziviani recognize that teachers play a central role in the implementation of assistive technology.  However, there is a lack of suitable training for teachers with specific mid and high tech tools.  Even with training, which usually consists of a single session, follow up support and assistance is often non-existent.  Teachers are often left to research how to troubleshoot or find ways to use and implement the tech within a classroom setting.  This takes time, energy, and patience for which teachers struggle with.  This then creates a negative attitude towards specialized AT tools and they are often abandoned, which unintentionally negatively impacts the student and their needs.

In addition to a single session of training, supports also need to be available during the implementation of the tool.  I prefer to introduce a tool to a group of teachers and paraprofessionals during lunch-and-learn sessions (if possible).  After this, I work with the student to train them in isolation with the tool for them to gain confidence and independence.  Next, I help the teacher plan to use the tech with specific activities within one subject area to start so that they don’t become overwhelmed and avoid adjusting to the new technology.  Often, once they see the benefits it has for the student, they start to feel more comfortable with implementing it within other subjects until it becomes a regular tool that the student can use daily.  Although this approach sounds good in theory, it really depends on the teacher and their attitude.

Some teachers are more resistant to use AT with their students as it isn’t something that they are familiar or comfortable with.  In addition, some teachers complain that AT devices interrupt the class and it makes it difficult to manage.  Unfortunately, these aren’t uncommon complaints, but as mentioned before, it’s important to support all Best Friend Thumbs Up GIF by A24teachers through the process of training and implementation.  Having said that, difficulties still exist when students change from one teacher to another the following year.  The process and training for the teacher begins again, but the silver lining is that the student should be independent and empowered to assist with this process.  This is why my role as the LRT is imperative for the students, the families, and the teachers as a consistent support for all.

Assessment issues

Copley and Ziviani explain that most assessments of AT is through the process of trial and error there are few guidelines available to assess efficiently.  This is sometimes due to the lack of team involvement in the assessment process. Where I see evidence of this is when students are discussed with school or division teams and decisions are made about them from these anecdotes, but these same team members rarely observe or work with students in their classroom environments.  When an assessment is made off-site and not within the educational environment, factors as to where, when, and how it will be integrated are often overlooked.  This sometimes results in an unrealistic or unnecessary recommendation for AT tools, hence the trial and error process we continually spiral through.  However, in my division, we don’t have enough division professionals, such as occupational therapists, psychologists, SLP’s, and counsellors to have this luxury of a proper, full assessment of student needs.  Therefore, they rely heavily on the bi-monthly meetings from their school teams to make their recommendations. We tend to acquire AT for students that may not work, but we try it because we are familiar with it and think it is a common tool that will work well for any student that struggles.   Unfortunately, this increases the chance of device abandonment.

help me new girl quotes GIF

In addition to the school and division professionals’ expertise, we also need to include families and the student themselves within these assessment processes to hear their voices and perspectives on the situation.  Lack of family and student input could lead to the inappropriate prescription of AT, and this can dramatically increase the stress level at home and negatively impact the student’s attitude and output at school.

Lastly, detailed and regular documentation of student tools/adaptations needs to occur and follow them going into the next classroom.   Often, this paperwork is not considered or is overlooked.  This oversight leaves other professionals working with the child back at square one, which is detrimental to the student and family.  Yes, this documentation takes time, but it saves time in the end.

Planning issues

Integration of AT is sometimes not done with fidelity.   We often expect the tool to work automatically and don’t give it the time and proper adjustments to fit the student’s needs and the learning environment.  Implementing within one subject or activity at a time would help, but there needs to be a follow-up review or evaluation of documentation Memes & GIFs - Imgflipthe AT tool.  This isn’t just for when technology doesn’t work.  I’m guilty of neglecting documentation when AT is successful because everyone is happy with its implementation.  Again, this documentation needs to be included in a student’s IIP, if they have one, or other notes that follow the student through their education endeavors.  Therefore, long-term planning and review of student’s needs have to be an inherent feature of their IIP in order for AT to be effective and efficient.

Funding issues

This is a no brainer barrier to AT.  It is no secret that AT can be downright expensive due to commercialization.  However, as Copley and Ziviani point out, each division has a budget, and sometimes it is spent on the excessive ordering of high-tech devices that aren’t even being used due to a number of reasons identified above including improper assessment process, lack of teacher training, and teacher attitudes.  It’s important for schools to re-evaluate the current AT tools they have in their school and the students that are assigned to them.  The decision if these tools would be better suited for other students to use or to trial prior to ordering more is something that I know we aren’t doing at my school.  Once it is ordered and assigned, it stays with them.  This leads me to question whether AT tools that are no longer being used by students they were originally assigned to need to be returned to the division or used by another student in the school.  If so, who should decide this?

Equipment issues

Another common barrier is the maintenance of AT tools.  Not only are there often long waits for equipment to be available once it is ordered, but their lifespan is also short-lived.  Many high-tech tools require software or hardware that gets old quickly and requires updating or repurchasing of the most recent model.  This is simply not sustainable. To put things in perspective, the average lifespan of a laptop or tablet is 2 years.

80s phones GIF

To make things even more concerning, classrooms are often sharing AT tools (after sanitizing, of course), which reduces its availability and doesn’t serve a consistent function but rather a spontaneous one.  Lastly, AT tools used in schools should also be transferable to other aspects of a student’s life outside of the school wall.  Is this too big of an expectation?

Time constraints

The last barrier Copley and Ziviani point out is the time required for AT implementation.  From the assessment process, acquirement of equipment, training of teachers, students, and families, and then students becoming independent when using this technology in a classroom setting represents a significant barrier.  In addition, time is spent troubleshooting.  Therefore, teachers cease to use devices because they perceive that these aspects of technology do not fit into tight classroom schedules.  It all comes down to proper training and supports for teachers, and I feel LRTs are taking this role on, which I am happy to do to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety AT tools have on some teachers.

Overcoming Barriers

To become an expert on AT tools for teachers and students, I resort to finding training for specific AT tools through online tutorials videos and reviews of products from other users.  I teach myself in order to play around with an AT tool before using it with a student and lastly explaining to the teacher how to use it.

Season 3 Sleeping GIF by The SimpsonsWe need to keep in mind that technology is not a fix for students.  We can’t expect to put it in their hands and their struggles will magically disappear.  It comes down to doing a proper assessment, supplying frequent training and support for teachers, students, and families, and following up and evaluating these tools year after year.

To help with this process, each year I like to have the teachers that I support go through a printable Record of Adaptation overview document adapted from the online version that our division uses.  Although overwhelming, going through this document not only affirms teachers of the low tech tools they regularly implement (bonus), it brings to the surface tools that they may want to try again or highlight new tools that fit the needs of new students in the class.  This reflection and evaluation are important so that we don’t become stagnant in our teaching practices.  We have to be fluid and in tune with the needs of our students each year and can’t paint each class with the same brush.

I apologize for the length of this blog, but this is an area that I am passionate about and want to ensure that we are doing properly for the sake of our students and their families as well as for the teachers that central to the effective implementation of AT tools.

Let Me Assess the Situation

Oscillating Schitts Creek GIF by CBCSource

Online assessment tools are not new, but their popularity is increasing as we navigate remote, hybrid, and blended learning in education these days.  Although I had heard of many of the tools introduced by Trevor, Dalton, and Matt, I was excited that they gave us the opportunity to explore them in addition to giving us their pros/cons perspective on each.

Obviously, assessments are about more than just grades. When meaningful and well-constructed, they help students gear up for success by challenging them to reflect, interact, and apply their knowledge to answer questions, solve problems, and communicate information.
iSpring (Helen Coleman)

Like Tracy, as an LRT, I also don’t have a classroom of kids to my own to try out some of the tools we have been learning about.  However, I am lucky enough to work with collaborative teachers that would allow me to teach a lesson or try a new tool with their class.  With this, I decided to do a formative assessment using Quizizz with a grade 4/5 class who has currently been working on multiplication in math.  I was interested to see how Quizizz compared to Kahoot, which I am familiar with.

I initially found many different pre-made quizzes that I could have easily used, but I decided I wanted to go through and create my own to test out different options available.  Therefore, I created three different quizzes of ten questions, each related to multiplication facts, to increase the difficulty for students.  My first quiz was simply multiple-choice, the second quiz was fill in the blank, and the third quiz was a combination of both.  However, for my third quiz, I decided to try out the picture option and found some picture arrays insert for the question itself.  In addition, I also used words instead of number symbols for some of the questions (ex. 7 x 4 was seven x four), just to throw a wrench into the standard representation of math facts.  Lastly, I gave the product as the question and students had to choose the appropriate factors instead as the answer.  The classroom teacher had mentioned that this change caused her to have to think differently, which is exactly as I was hoping for.  Overall, the creation of these tests was very quick, easy, and simple with lots of options to tinker with.

As for making these quizzes available to students, I chose to create a Google Classroom numeracy assignment (I am connected to their GC already) to attach the quiz links to.  I did this instead of connecting right through Google Classroom as it would create three different assignments rather than just one for all three quizzes.  Also, this way students didn’t need to go to the website and connect through the quiz code.  It took them right to the quiz without extra navigation.

  

I was cognizant to remember that students like to make up their own names in Kahoot and have the ability to do the same in Quizizz, but I explicitly stated to them to use their first name.  However, even with that instruction, there were a few that didn’t follow suit.  Through the process of elimination, we were able to figure out who they were.

After students finished all three quizzes, they asked if they could do them again to try to increase their speed, and thus, their score.  I wasn’t sure if their second attempt would override their first, so we asked them to use their last name the second time instead of their first.  Now knowing, attempting a second or third time under the same name does not erase the first attempts.  From the teacher’s account, you can see each attempt and the results of each.

All in all, I enjoyed using Quizizz over Kahoot, as did my students.  It was engaging with synchronous/asynchronous options, ability to toggle on/off features such as timers and leaderboards, variety of question types, easy to read/navigate reports, and access to pre-made quizzes that are easy to preview/adjust.  I’m sure there are more features that I am not aware of that make it even more enticing to use, such as the flashcard option that I just stumbled upon as I write this blog.  If there are any other features that I have overlooked, please let me know.

Thanks to Trevor, Dalton, and Matt for introducing us to this and other assessment tool options for quick and easy engagement for students and quick and easy differentiation and assessment for teachers.

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.

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!

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?

How can I thank you, Sesame Street?

If a child can read, write, and count, but cannot converse, question and socialize, then he or she is not properly educated.
– Neil Postman

Neil Postman - WikipediaNeil Postman’s disputed quotes are something I find interesting to dissect as it brings to light some persuasive arguments regarding the ‘edutainment’ industry that is prevalent in our society and continues to be a hot topic of discussion.

In a book Postman wrote in 1985, Amusing Ourselves to Death,  he states “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”

First off, I would like to understand what he means by “the traditional idea of schooling”.  He quoted this about 35 years ago, which takes us into the mid 80’s.  During this time, starting in the late 70’s, educators and parents were concerned for declining test scores, and therefore worried about the quality of education delivered in schools.  In 1978, the US government established a new Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965: Title II Basic Skills Improvement.  One of the purposes of this new legislation was “to expand the use of television and other technology in the delivery of instructional programs aimed at improving achievement in the basic skills”.  The focus on basic skills was a shift from the liberal educational practices of the 60’s and 70’s.  This approach became the traditional way to educate, likely what Postman is referring to in this quote.

In another article I found, Postman explains this quote in a little more detail identifying that Sesame Street is “is a terrific television show and really uses all the resources of a visual image-based medium…they are learning their letters and numbers”.  However, “they are learning that it must always be entertaining, that learning is largely a matter sesame street muppets GIF by HBOof images, and that learning has to involve immediate gratification. All these collateral learnings turn out in the end to be much more important than whether kids are actually learning their letters and numbers. Most kids learn letters and numbers in due time, anyway”.  There are many types of learning styles that are addressed using the technology of television that aren’t necessarily used in a traditional school setting.  Technologies, such as television, are sometimes a more suitable means for learning for our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners that benefit from the imaginary, musical, and mnemonic approaches that shows like Sesame Street use.

I do understand his point but don’t necessarily agree with it.  He says that he raised his children in a counter environment to television by exposing them to books filled with words, printed words and talked to them about printed words and they turned out to be highly successful adults (astrophysicist, writer, teacher).  Of course, we still beauty and the beast books GIFencourage our parents to start reading with their kids at an early age and to read daily, but why can’t this be in conjunction with other types of learning media.  I know he feels that technology such as television, tablets, and smartphones are replacing books, I think all of these media are important to the development of our children when used in balance with one another.

He continues to argue that “television makes it increasingly impossible to sustain the idea of childhood and that in North America, especially, we can see its rapid disappearance.”  I do agree that these new technologies are changing the childhood landscape that we grew up in, but there are always going to be benefits and detriments to this type of change, especially at the speed that is it currently changing.  We need to learn how these new technologies and approaches to learning can be used effectively and efficiently in conjunction with other types of approaches in order to reach the diverse student learning profiles that we see in schools today.  We can’t paint everyone with the same paintbrush and need to be cognizant of the socio-economic diversity that also impacts the overall development of our youth.

bob ross painting GIF by NETFLIX

One thing I do agree with Postman is that:

“parents need to regulate how much time their children can watch television and what they can watch, what films they can see and even what records they can have. They must talk to their children a lot about what they are exposed to in these media. If parents are paying considerable attention to what’s happening, then I think it’s possible to provide children with a childhood. But, if you are too busy or your life circumstances, for whatever reason, don’t permit that, then NBC, CBS, Steven Spielberg, Coca-Cola, and Procter and Gamble will simply do the job.” 

We need to engage with our children and the media that they are using.  This ties in directly with teaching digital citizenship, an area for which I feel should be part of the written curriculum.  However, we can’t simply shield our children from this new technology as it is a part of the world we live in.  Instead, we need to ensure that it has a specific purpose and is used efficiently and effectively in order to help support our development in the world in all aspects, not just in the education world.  Following up with our students when using these technologies is just as important as using these educational tools themselves as it creates new learnings and connects them to what a child already knows.

family time reading GIF by Xyngular

Many studies have been conducted to analyze the impacts of ‘edutainment’ technology, such as Sesame Street.  Although Postman feels that this show gives a false representation of what traditional school is, some argue that it provides at least some educational opportunities for the 60% of the 4-year-olds who aren’t enrolled in preschool programs.

A study out of the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that Sesame Street School Teacher GIF by Sesame Streetis “the largest and least-costly [early childhood] intervention that’s ever been implemented” in the United States (Kearney and Levine, 2016).  The annual cost per-child of Sesame Street in today’s dollars was just $5.  The results also indicate that Sesame Street improved school readiness, particularly for boys and children living in economically disadvantaged areas.  The study argues that Sesame Street was the first MOOC.

The idea of the tv program was to foster preschoolers’ “intellectual and cultural development” and, perhaps more importantly, to “reduce the educational deficits experienced by disadvantaged youth based on differences in their environment,” (Kearney and Levine, 2016).

“It [Sesame Street] normalizes other kinds of diversity, too—from learning disabilities to destitution to imaginary friends, the show teaches children that it was okay to be different, that everyone struggles and develops in their own ways.”
-David Kleeman

Another benefit of Sesame Street that didn’t exist in most educational settings was diversity. This exposure developed an awareness of ethnic identities and social status, along with the ability to make social comparisons, and these experiences of a variety of backgrounds can help shape perceptions of society.

So, Mr. Postman, although you have some valid points to your argument, I do believe that we have to embrace new technologies and incorporate their beneficial possibilities to fit the needs of our current student populations.  These technologies have and will continue to change the educational landscape with much criticism and praise going forward.  It’s up to us to figure out how to best integrate them to help increase the success rate of producing as many critical thinkers, creative masters, conscientious communicators, and effective collaborators into our society.

Below, take a look at some interesting educational changes throughout the decades that incorporate the advancements of technologies.

classroom 1951An interesting snapshot in 1954 of early audio/visual tools and their “importance” in society.  

grade school children classroom 1973In 1973, a school for gifted students had opportunities to use many audio/visual tools shown here.  

school 1982A 1982 school brought in arcade games as an experiment to raise funds.

 

Let’s add some extensions to your look!

 

I was first introduced to a plethora of Google Chrome extensions when I took my first graduate EdTech class, ECI831.  There was an extensive list that Alec provided and he quickly reviewed some of his favourites, for which I promptly added to my extension list, although not really knowing what they were all about.  I can say that Extensions GIF by Jen Atkinsome are well used (Google Read/Write, Grammarly, Bitmoji, OneTab) some I haven’t really used…yet (EquatIO, Screenshot Reader), and several that I use without even knowing (DF Tube, Mercury Reader, uBlock Origin). Shelby, Megan, and Trevor have already mentioned some really good ones, so I thought I would do an investigation of some other ones that I have either not heard of or am not familiar with to add to the productivity tools that already exist on my own computer.  This is what brought me to this blog post for which I acquired most of the extensions that I’m going to be reviewing.


*Disclaimer* I have not formally used this tool within my planning and instruction.  This extension is restricted by my school division, not sure why (app not whitelisted for install by admin), so I was unable to play with it to see its full potential.  Therefore, the following review is based on the research I did.

This extension was created in 2014 to add an interactive assessment tool compatible with Google Slides or PowerPoint.  The purpose is to add an engagement element that provides immediate feedback using a formative assessment approach.  Below is a list of highlights and lowlights of this extension.

Highlights

  • Designed to enhance learning through PowerPoint or Google Slides
  • Platform works well in connected educator and BYOD settings
  • Variety of question types benefit students with a variety of backgrounds and learning preferences (drawing, dragging, text, number, and multiple choice)
  • Teacher has full autonomy over design, flow, and assessment tools usage
  • Teachers can view students’ responses to these questions immediately, and have the option to anonymously share results on-screen for all students to see
  • Clean, easy to use interface, which is attractive to both teachers and students
  • Huge repository of ideas to choose from
  • Partnered up with Merriam-Webster, Newsela, and Flashcard Factory
  • Teachers can share Takeaways (Google Doc that includes all of the slides and student answers)
  • Allows teachers to leave comments for individual students.
  • Students access using their Google accounts by entering a simple code shared by teacher

Lowlights

  • Free version has limited functions; need to use the paid premium version for full student interaction
  • Much of the effectiveness still relies on the teacher’s comfort level and ability to incorporate this tool within each lesson and choosing content that fits this style of instruction
  • Time-consuming to set up for effective use
  • Students rely on the teacher for immediate feedback on responses, which isn’t as easy with each type of question form (ex. drawing)
  • Although student answers are anonymous, they still may identify students and impact student participation

Overall to me, it seems like a fun tool but the time it looks like it takes to set up in addition to the Google Slides/PowerPoint itself seems like a turnoff, but if I were actually allowed to try it out, I may have a different opinion.

Watch a quick tutorial here to form your opinion on this Chrome extension.  Is this something you’ve used?  If so, let me know your thoughts.  Is this something you’d consider trying?  If so, what interests you about it?

*Disclaimer* I have not formally used this tool within my planning and instruction because I just stumbled upon it.  Once again, the following review is based on the research I did.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much out there for reviews.

Also created in 2014, this extension is meant to streamline the assessment of Google Forms quizzes.  I have just recently been using Google Forms after using it for a project in my EC&I 832 class, and have been thoroughly using it to gather data for the ringette teams that I coach.  Although Google Forms itself has an assessment tool already incorporated, this one adds a little bit more options.  Below is a list of highlights and lowlights of this extension.

Highlights

  • Assign specific point values for multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and short answer questions
  • Lets you send grades to students via email or by sharing in Google Docs immediately after they have completed a quiz or at a later time of your choosing
  • Accepts more than one correct answer for each of the questions on your quiz
  • Partial credit for an answer is an option
  • Easier to print grade summaries
  • Good tool for when you are giving a more comprehensive assessment and want to be able to use a wider variety of scoring and reporting tools.
  • Highlights which questions are most frequently missed which helps you easily identify problem areas
  • Decreases time grading student submissions manually

Lowlights

  • Doesn’t combine the student submissions with the score; you can see the submissions in one sheet and it creates another tab on the sheet for the score
  • Can be time-consuming to set up

Overall, I don’t feel I have enough information to formulate an accurate opinion on this.  This is one I’d like to explore more by implementing in class.   Watch a quick tutorial here to form your opinion on this Chrome extension.  Is this something you’ve used?  If so, let me know your thoughts.  Is this something you’d consider trying?  If so, what interests you about it?


*Disclaimer* I have not formally used this tool within my planning and instruction.  This extension is restricted by my school division, not sure why (app not whitelisted for install by admin), so I was unable to play with it to see its full potential.  Therefore, the following review is based on the research I did.

Doctopus, is an add-on script for Google Sheets that reaches out to Google Classroom and pulls in the web addresses for student work associated with an assignment. Doctopus acts like a teacher by not only collecting in assignments but also passing them back to your students.  However, it works best when combined with another Chrome extension called Goobric, a combination of Google and rubric.  Goobric allows you to take rubrics that have been roughly created in Google Sheets and inserts them into a Google Doc. 

Highlights

  • Students receive essential teacher feedback in real time
  • Combines a digital assessment rubric into already created assignments in Google Classroom
  • Individual teacher comments and the rubric data are time stamped and appended to the bottom of the Doc for each student to view assessment information is also sent to a Google Sheet for easy reference and analysis from anywhere at any time
  • Can be used for both formative and summative assessment
  • Teachers can fill out the attached outcome based rubric more than once, and each time the information is appended to the student’s Doc for them to view
  • Ability to click rubric boxes in the same browser tab as the opened assignment
  • Automatically adds up all those points from the rubric boxes afterwards to determine final scores
  • Tools allow teachers to shorten the time it takes to read, comment, and grade student work using a rubric
  • Can leave audio commentary
  • Can create a bank of comments for frequently used narratives so that they can copy-and-paste feedback
  • Allows students to self-assess their work so that they are engaging in metacognition about their work and how it measures against the rubric
  • Easily download PDFs of student essays with the rubric copied-and-pasted into the assignment

Lowlights

  • Quite a few steps to install and set up

No word of a lie, I had a difficult time finding any negative reviews on this extension, aside from my own opinion show above.  I’m intrigued by these tools as online classroom platforms are now required to set up in case we go back to online learning.  Having said that,  many eLearning teachers may be interested in a tool like this since they are already working with students in Google Classroom (for certain school divisions).  Watch a lengthy tutorial here to form your opinion on this Chrome extension.  Is this something you’ve used?  If so, let me know your thoughts.  Is this something you’d consider trying?  If so, what interests you about it?

Privacy

When it comes to privacy for online applications, plugins/extensions, and/or general web browsing, I am overwhelmed.  However, there are some quick ways to assess some privacy concerns suggested by CommonSense.Org.

First, websites with https:// means that the site is encrypted and has security features for vs. http:// which doesn’t.  Second, see if the tool has a privacy policy.  If it does, it shows a level of security as some tools are difficult to find any policy at all.  Lastly, if you’re still not sure, check with the experts at your school division.  I know my school division has a list of acceptable apps, tools, websites that have been checked for privacy.  Although some things are restricted, like FlipGrid, I’m sure there’s a good reason for this recommendation….right?!?

CommonSense.org also has a list of hundreds of websites and tools that have been evaluated based on their privacy.   Check out the list here.  There are also some suggested kid browsers that are safer to use.

Another way to protect for privacy is to add Chrome extensions, such as UBlock Origin.  However, with this and other suggested Chrome extensions, are there privacy concerns with adding these to your computers?

Accordng to HackerNews.com, you may take some comfort in knowing that  “Google began requiring extensions to only request access to the “least amount of data” starting October 15, 2019, banning any extensions that don’t have a privacy policy and gather data on users’ browsing habits.”  They also suggest that you “review your extension permissions, consider uninstalling extensions you rarely use or switch to other software alternatives that don’t require invasive access to your browser activity.”

Lastly, privacy and online activity go hand in hand with digital citizenship.  This is a no brainer but something that we take for granted when we put students online.  They need to know the ins and outs of how to access and be a part of the digital world.  They rely on us adults and teachers to ensure they are safe and productive online.  Do your part to educate yourself and your students so that can be critical thinkers, connect, be creative, and communicate appropriately.

White Girl Haircut GIF by Trey Kennedy

Source

What’s the theory behind all of this?

I have always been interested in the psychology of learning, which entails biological influences, social pressures, and environmental factors that affect how people think, act, and feel.  As teachers, we have a huge impact on how students gain knowledge, which is largely dependent on their learning style.  Believe it or not,  it is likely that our teaching practices and philosophies stem from how we learn ourselves and we tend to teach the same way.  At least at the beginning of our careers, we did because it was familiar, safe, and essentially our life preserver for those first years of trying to keep our head above water.  However, what if students don’t learn the way we do?  How do we know what type of learning styles our students have?  How do we adjust our teaching to address all of the learning needs?  How do we remain consistent?

Our prof, Alec,  asked us the following question to hook us into our topic this week, a very cognitivist thing to do.

“When is it the case that you know something?”

  • When you can teach it to someone (Catherine)
  • When you can explain it, manipulate it,… take it further (Lisa)
  • You can know something but you can know more about it (Dean)
  • When you can explain it from different angles (Jenny)
  • When you can apply something that you have learned (Caleigh)
  • When you can do something automatically without looking up instructions (Dalton)
  • Rephrase and apply to new settings (Meira)
  • Repetition (Dalton)
  • Thinking about something through a critical lens, taking facts a step further, making connections (Leigh)
  • I don’t think we ever really do- we only “know” what we are taught or experience- but it doesn’t necessarily mean we know it. That’s really abstract (Megan)

All of the responses above are correct but do we consistently allow students opportunities to repeat, explain, teach, apply, connect, analyze, and evaluate the new information that we are throwing at them on a daily basis?  If so, how do you go about doing this for all types of learners at all different levels of learning all within the same class?  It seems I have more questions than answers, which demonstrates my level of learning within this topic and this has forced me to evaluate my own teaching practices.  I am an audio-visual learner (looking forward to seeing next week’s group presentation), so I took it upon myself to find videos to help me further explore each of the learning theories discussed in class (don’t worry, Alec, you did a fine job of introducing the topics).

BEHAVIOURISM

Watson and Skinner developed the theory of behaviourism and identify how environmental events can influence how one acts.  Behavior can be controlled or modified based on the consequences of a particular behaviour.  Reinforcers help to alter behaviours to preferred actions, such as raising your hand to speak in class.

I definitely use this type of approach to learning as it is a form of extrinsic motivation that has proven to be successful.  Although I don’t have my own class anymore, for which I used a classroom econony approach for management,  I often use the First, Then approach with students that have a difficult time initiating and /or completing non-preferred academic tasks.  This allows students to do their preferred activity after they complete the directive that is being asked of them, which is usually a non-preferred task.  For example, a student may want to draw a picture instead of writing their story, so I provide them with options to do their writing (scribe, chunk, use technology, speech to text, work with a partner) and then they can draw a picture.  For each student, it is important to know what their threshold is but it is important to remain consistent and have them part of the decision making by providing manageable choices.  I use student choices all the time but the choice options always relate to the task that is being requested.  If a student doesn’t want to draw, I offer the choices of drawing on paper with pencil crayons or drawing on a whiteboard with dry-erase rock paper scissors GIF by CBSmarkers.  Either way, their choice is about what media to use, not whether or not they are going to draw.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t always effective but this approach is something that is second nature to me now.  In any approach, there is usually a carrot to draw a student in to complete a task with the understanding that they can complete a preferred one afterward, such as a brain break walk, a rock/paper/scissors battle with me, verbal praise, celebrating completed work with admin or parents, etc.

COGNITIVISM

Cognitivism theorists, such as Piaget and Ausubel, identify the importance of knowing how information is received, organized, stored, and retrieved by the mind of the learner.  This learning theory emphasizes retention and recall of information through the use of quality teaching practices.  “Instructional explanations, demonstrations, illustrative examples and matched non-examples are all considered to be instrumental in guiding student learning” (Ertmer and Newby, pg. 51, 2013).

After doing more research on this type of learning theory, I see many ways in which my teaching practices reflect this approach.  First off, Bloom’s Taxonomy focuses on a set of three hierarchical models used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity (Wikipedia).  When creating assignments, I use a three-tiered approach that relates to Bloom’s levels which are dependent on the level of each of my students.  Although they are getting the same assignment, there are ways that I can simplify the task and, conversely, enhance the task to challenge all levels of learners.  It is imperative to not only hook students at the beginning of each lesson/concept, but I try to ensure that I teach pre-requisite knowledge, review information regularly, chunk tasks into manageable pieces, provide familiar graphic organizers for independent use, apply mnemonic devices for those that benefit from it, and always have visual aids for guidance and consistent reference.
These strategies not only help build upon prior knowledge through Piaget’s concept of assimilation, but it also allows for opportunities to accommodate this new information by helping students develop new schema through experiential learning opportunities.  To understand students learning styles, I always used Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences framework and activities at the beginning of each year so I could preview my students’ learning profiles as well as have students identify them so they can start to advocate for their own learning needs.

CONSTRUCTIVISM

Constructivism is a learning theory that allows students to create meaning and knowledge from lived experiences because they are able to interact with a problem or concept.  Students take on a more active role which motivates and engages them in their learning process.  Higher-order thinking skills, such as reasoning, problem-solving, and application, are utilized in this approach.

Although not used as often as the other two learning theories, I have used a constructivist approach in activities such as role-playing in my health topics and debating in my persuasive writing activities.  I consistently like to have students work in cooperative learning groups to have opportunities to share as well as experience other perspectives as these skills are transferrable into real-world experiences in the workplace.   Luckily, the education world understands the importance of this type of learning by having pre-service teachers participate in internships, the most valuable part of the program in my opinion.
Another teaching practice I partake in that relate to this approach is the gradual release of responsibility.  I often organize my lessons based on the “I Do, We Do, You Do approach.  This matches with the Zones of Proximal Development work by Vygotsky.  Some other approaches or tasks that would also work is Genius Hour, Three Act Math, and any student activism projects.

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CONNECTIVISM

This relatively new type of learning theory by Siemens is something I have attempted in my classroom experience but not one that I use regularly.  This approach emphasizes the connectedness of learning for which we gain perspectives from others in order to grow and develop in our own way of thinking about the world.  Those that value and utilize this approach are aware of one another while they are learning and they continue to build, connect, and improve based on the help of the connections they make along the way.  It is a socially connected learning process based on the concept that knowledge is a networked product.  One learns new ideas from others, applies them to what they already know to construct a deeper level of understanding through these conceptual connections.
The way Alec structures his EdTech class is a prime example of how connectivism works.  I have learned just as much from others that I have connected within these classes as I have Alec himself.  This is a powerful community that is built from this structure and we aren’t solely dependent on the prof for our learning, we rely on each other.  Blogging, collaboration, problem-solving, and application of our knowledge are the ingredients for optimal learning in this online environment.  However, this can definitely be done in an in-person environment as well.   Years ago, I used Blogmeister or Blogster with my students to share and publish their work, although it was very surface level.  I also attempted a class Twitter account for which an individual student each day got to tweet out something we did that day.  Again, I didn’t get deep into connecting with others, but there was an early attempt when these types of platforms were just being introduced to the world.  Now we have graduate classes such as this that help us be able to better utilize these social media tools for better learning opportunities for those that thrive with developing connections.

busy cartoon network GIFAfter this reflective analysis of my past and present teaching practices and how they align with the different learning theories, I can see areas for which I can explore further and ones in which I can refine to better suit the needs of my students.  It’s imperative we meet students where they are at and include them in their learning journey for optimal learning and growth to occur.