Author Archives: Leona Stephen

Fence – Final Thoughts

As I sit at my desk marking final exams I’m certainly glad to report that our internet services are back up and running. The last week with students will be stress free. Technology in education is a wonderful opportunity that truly can enhance learning, creativity and allow many teachers to be more productive. However, when it’s not working or there simply isn’t enough to go around it truly is more of a headache. It has been a pleasure to hear so many different perspectives from my classmates of EC&I 830 this spring session. If I have solved anything – I am not a great debater – much more of a fence sitter.

black and white boys children curiosity
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As we continue to embed new technologies into our classrooms I truly believe it’s okay to learn and respect those that came before us. There is a time and place for pen and paper. Our final thoughts put together in video format from Bret, Reid and myself – Enjoy!

Impacts of Online Learning

It is crucial that when discussing online learning that we differentiate between emergency learning and online learning. Unfortunately, I do believe many of us are seeing online learning a negative experience as a result of pandemic learning that we experienced and continue to experience as a result of the peak of the pandemic.

Challenge and change. Displaying the relation between challenge and change stock illustration

Change is a challenge. The dramatic change to emergency learning was a significant challenge for all. It certainly showed educators and parents that face to face learning has it benefits for the majority of our students. The points addressed by the agree side I believe were in a reaction to Pandemic Emergency Learning and didn’t truly reflect the concept of traditional online learning that already exists in our education systems. Regardless, it is still important to reflect on the experience so that can make well informed decisions in the future.

  • In class learning allows a community to be built where teachers, learning resource workers, administration, psychologists and guidance counsellors all work together to support the children in our rooms.
  • Students are more easily monitored in regards to their daily academic struggles and social interactions with peers.
  • In a classroom teachers are in the space to support the structure of learning and parents aren’t needed to facilitate their child’s education.
  • Online education looks very different for many subjects and grade levels which dramatically changes the learning experience. For example many of our primary curriculums are written based on play and social interactions with others. By not developing social skills during the young years we are putting our students at a disadvantage by not developing resilience skills. It also becomes very difficult to provide hands on experiences in science and in many of our PAA classes like construction and welding.
  • So many students thrive when opportunities are provides away from the the desk. Online learning is not a one sized fits all concept and should be used when valuable to the needs of child.
Big Time Stress – Students Express the Difficulties of Online Learning during the Pandemic

We certainly know that online learning is not suitable for all and doesn’t adequately provide a proper education for those that are at a disadvantage whether if be financially, physical or mentally. I journal article that I reviewed from the agree side indicated a study had been completed of over 1600 college students that were enrolled in online learning. The study showed that in those with psychiatric disabilities found online learning to be incredibly challenging because of time management, difficulty concentrating, and challenges with navigating the course at a higher rate than those without disabilities. Giving choice allows students to find their own avenue to success.

If the debate was centered around traditional online learning I would certainly be on the disagree side of this debate – online learning is not detrimental to students education rather it can be a great supplement to in school based learning or the sole avenue for their education.

The disagree side made several key points in there opening video regards to traditional online learning for us to considered when formulating our opinion around online education. The following are some of the key points that I agree with as to why online education in the traditional format is not detrimental to learning.

  • when teachers have time to prepare online learning comes with many benefits
  • online learning is flexible – set a learning pace that fits the student
  • creates critical time management skills that can be useful in life later
  • more autonomy for the student choice on how and when they learn
  • time saver and accessible anywhere
  • allows more timey feedback from teachers on class work and progress of the students learning
  • students with mental health and anxiety disorders feel better in their own homes
  • students that excel in the arts or athletics and still participate in learning that fits their training schedules

I do full heartedly believe that education can’t be a one size fits all approach. We need to be flexible and provide choice. If I wasn’t provided the opportunity to continue my studies via the online school platform I would have never started my masters at this stage in my life. Choice provides opportunity – Which door would you choose for yourself ?

architecture black and white challenge chance
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Responsibility Vs Guidance

Another good topic to discuss at the table – when we started out I felt comfortable stating that I was on the agree side. My viewpoint was quickly swayed in the first few minutes into the disagrees opening statement – “Students arrive at school with a digital footprint”. Despite there being great points on both sides I feel that I need to further investigate into this topic to make my final decision. Valid points that I heard from the agree and disagree side:

  • Educators are best positioned to work with students, can’t assume parents will
  • Families need education and support to help make change
  • Online spaces are real spaces that we can’t ignore
  • Teachers are not adequately educated to help students to understand their footprint
  • Model and teach alongside of them – guidance
  • Laws need to change to protect our youth
  • Parents are not aware of what digital citizenship means when the sign the forms
https://sites.google.com/a/yarmouthschools.org/digital-discussion/Home/digital-footprint

With proper training and more conversations I certainly would become more confident in providing guidance. I’m hesitant to state that it is the sole responsibility of teachers to help students develop a digital footprint when there are so many areas that need to be considered. Kimberely Kipp spoke very well in her closing remarks on the disagree side. The following are some of her remarks that helped to finalize my switch to the disagree side.

  • parental involvement and education,
  • a child’s right to autonomy and consent, consistent, current, and
  • resources for teachers
  • adequate and accessible digital security
  • strong government policies, and ultimately
  • corporate transparency and rights-respecting policies
A great resource for teachers to use in our Classrooms!

If teachers are going to have the added responsibility to teach about digital footprints and model digital citizenship in our lives than I would certainly appreciate better training. In a study that was conducted with middle years aged students it was determined that many middle years students were aware of cyber safety and digital footprints but aren’t award of how to make their digital footprint a positive influence on society. The study revealed a few interesting results that I believe are important that we use a stepping stones to build our lessons in our classrooms if we are going to be tasked with teaching about digital footprints and digital citizenship.

  • Going online is a normal activity done by many youth, however parental involvement and supervision with online activity is varied
  • Online communication is often exchanged on social media apps between people they already now in their face to face relations
  • Some student are aware of online identity, many have no clue
  • Students are concerned with their cyber safety and it shapes their digital identities
  • More management strategies need to be implemented that reflect the age of the student

From reading through articles and watching videos after the conclusion of our debate this week I have develop a better awareness as to why it needs to be a team effort when tackling who is responsible for teaching concepts of digital citizenship and digital footprints. Interestingly enough if I had heard about sharenting years ago – I would like have a more sound reason to share with others why I don’t post pictures of my kids online very often.

I have always been hesitant to put photos of my children on my Facebook or Instagram feed. Never have I heard the term “Sharenting” until now. This post listed by the disagree side has provided me with more awareness on the legal reasons for not sharing as a parent. I don’t want to create my child’s digital footprint for them, they each need to have the right to create what they want that to look like. Going forward I will always ask there consent before posting – as a parent that is the least that I can do to respect them as people no matter their age.

If I Could Turn Back Time!

Jump back to September 2010 or fast forward to September 2022. Despite being on the agree side of the cell phone debate I truly am upon the fence. If I was to go back to 2010, why that date I don’t really know but I was in my 7th year of teaching and at that time students seemed to have better cell phone etiquette than they do in 2022. They respected classroom rules and didn’t push the boundaries. Students understood that there was a time and place for cell phone use and it wasn’t during school hours. Teachers didn’t have to discipline a child every five minutes for cell phone use as they were engaged with the classroom task and not mesmerized by a game or message. Spring forward to June 2022 and I want to honestly throw out every cell phone in site. What on earth happened? How did we create such an imbalance? Is it possible to turn back time and start again? If I new in 2010 what 2022 was going to look like than just maybe I wouldn’t be on the fence. Oh Cher “If I could turn back time” – what a good tune!

If we knew the impact of internet and smart phones on mental health 15 years ago we might have reconsidered our great desire to pursue our personal use with them and our desire to integrate them into our classrooms. Just like CFC’s and Nicotine – if we could have only predicted the future!

I found the discussion about “nomophobia” from the agree side of the debate quite interesting as I hadn’t heard that term used before. The article that was provided to us to read was full of quality information about the topic. I found it truly interesting to learn the following about nomophobia.

  • the fear of not being able to use ones phone or the apps on the phone
  • leads to other concerns of stress, anxiety and depression
  • threaten classroom learning because students have less ability to focus on a task
  • the closer the phone is the less cognitive functioning the students have
  • the noises of other phones in the room are even distracting to students
  • students feel when the don’t have there phone they are loosing out connectedness with their peers

Despite knowing that I can’t turn back time – I would like to determine how we can alter the future. I believe that smart phones can take up space in our classrooms if we aggressively work at ensuring that phones are to be in classrooms for learning purposes only. As Sam Kerry addresses on his YouTube channel the benefits out way the drawbacks.

So let challenge each other to be a united front. Let’s join together in recognizing the benefits of smart phones in our classrooms but lets stay united in our push to improve etiquette and proper usage. What I say goes in my room should also go in your room. We need to eliminate the good cop bac cop scenarios that already exist in our schools. We all just might need to become cell phone police.

https://i0.wp.com/www.kkrylawfirm.com/wp-content/uploads/cell-phone-search-without-warrant.jpg?w=500&ssl=1

The Island

The island – a place of solitude, family and hard work. A place where my memories of my childhood are deeply rooted, a place where boredom was tackled by creativity, a place where challenges were faced with perseverance and a place where life was simple and in the moment. I am certainly one to say that technology is having a significant impact on childhood. So much so that this is the one debate where I was not on the fence at all. I heard and respectfully listened to the discussions around generational gaps and that old people just don’t get it because their childhood wasn’t like that. However, I do believe that we can respectively learn from our elders and use the knowledge gained to make wise choices for our future selves and the lives of our children. Do I think children need to have my exact childhood experiences on an island to have success in life ……… not exactly. But I do believe that myself and the generations before me have made out pretty good and that just maybe they had one or two things right.

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Both sides to tonight’s debate about technology and childhood were very well thought out. However, I feel most passionate about the agree side. From the article “The Impact of Social Media on Children” and you-tube video from the “Kid Counselor” I was able to take away several points that I strongly agree with about the impacts of social media on childhood.

  • social media has more negative than positive effects on the development of the brain
  • increased anxiety and depression
  • the new wave of addiction is the cell phone
  • the impact of the screens on brain
  • many teenagers have meltdowns if the phone goes missing
  • less physical activity and outdoor time
  • parents aren’t aware of what happens in the secret life of their child on the phone
  • parents need to have stiffer rules to help curve the long term effects of social media
https://socialmediapsychology.eu/2018/02/01/digital-childhood-kids-and-social-media/

I do truly appreciate the efforts of the disagree side to show us that there are young people whom are effectively using social media in a positive way. It is amazing to see young people use their voice with purpose as explained on this website. I acknowledge and respect the efforts of so many young people that are passionate about making a positive change and have been encouraged by adults to use social media with purpose. Unfortunately in my opinion the good is very much overshadowed by the bad and their are just not enough teenagers or children that are mature enough to engage in positive change making behaviours.

Social Media Children Chat Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image.  Image 77262645.
https://www.123rf.com/photo_77262645_social-media-children-chat.html

Salvage Old and Embed New

Maybe the past is relevant for the future. However, in the present I see no problem in attempting to blend the old with the new. It was incredibly interesting to sit back and listen to our debate teams present their sides and I enjoyed reading Daltons post on balance.

http://colinfarrelly.blogspot.com/2011/01/importance-of-history.html

I appreciated Sushmeet’s and Leah’s points in their opening video on the agree side..

  • we as humans are doing many tasks online already – convenience and hassle free
  • technology speeds up our time spent on learning a task
  • lets not rob our students of tomorrow

Leah and Sushmeet provided us with an interesting read about transformational change. The article titled “shifting pedagogies and digital technologies” provided good insight into how to think about the future of education. The authors explain that it is important for us educators to shape our thinking by considering the following:

  • educational change needs to be global
  • future planning needs to be an exercise in future thinking
  • change requires all social groups to work together
  • if people are going to buy into change it helps if they are the developers of the change

I recognize the need for change in education as society changes around it. However, I see no problems with utilizing teaching strategies from the past that continue to provide positive learning opportunities for the students in our classrooms in the present. Our students in our rooms shouldn’t be molded into a one size fits all kind of scenario.

One-Size-Fits-All” – CUNY Peer Leaders
https://cunypeerleaders.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2020/10/17/one-size-fits-all/

The points made by Alyssa, Kelly and Durston on the disagree side of the debate were also well laid out. Some key highlights I took away from their opening video were:

  • productive and successful members of society need basic skills
  • fine motor skill practice has many benefits
  • note taking improves processing skills
  • problem solving skills can be used across many daily skills

The following quote taken from an article provided by the disagree side made me think. “I think your cursive writing identifies you as much as your physical features do.” How do we as teachers truly know that our choices we make are beneficial for all students in our room. I think that we should be willing to accept that there could be value in traditional educational methods and that new ones certainly have their place in our classrooms as well. I few months ago my son started learning to handwrite – he came home with excitement and joy that he was learning to create his letters with more style. He now choses to handwrite more than print because it’s easier for him and because he finds it fun. Let’s not take personal choice and passion away from students if we don’t really have to.

A passion for lifelong learning - KABA

As technology continues to change rapidly we as teacher will continue to feel the pressures of change. Determining what engagement looks like and how our students learn the best will always cause stress for us. Give technology an opportunity but don’t hesitate to use traditional models of learning in your room.

A Balancing Act

Finding a middle ground feels as though it is becoming more challenging. I like to believe that I have found a balance with my use of technology both in my personal and professional life that I am comfortable with. There are days when I wonder am I alone in my beliefs or does this picture concern anyone else?

group of people in white shirts
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Maybe I’m old school, maybe I’m uncomfortable with change or maybe I’m simply unaware. I’m a believer of science and what it can explain to us about our mammal brain capacity. I often wonder will we eventually reach our own limits of the human brain? Will we decide 50 years from now that our addiction to the internet was detrimental to the development of today’s youth. I often compare it to the use of nicotine and how harmful the outcome was but it didn’t seem to matter early on when everyone was using it. The financial gain was more important to the tobacco companies than the health of our society. The balancing act is a fine line and it is certainly one that is hard to define and create in our lives as each person has a different lifestyle and teaching pedagogy.

When I look at my life and my use of technology I often say I’m a dinosaur not because of my age but because of my personal choices for technology use both in my personal and professional lives.

https://wandervogeldiary.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/extinction-of-the-dinosaur/

Ten years ago I would have never said that about myself because I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have a Twitter account or an active Instagram page, that I wasn’t jumping on the wagon with every new educational app that rolled through the classrooms. I can vividly recall my first experience with Twitter – sitting in a conference room with 300 teachers in PA – listening to Dr. Alec Couros brother George Couros talk about the benefits of technology in the classrooms. I sat there amongst all the connected teachers as they pulled out their smart phones and started tweeting…..what on earth was going on?….. was I out of touch? Did not having a Twitter account mean I was not a good teacher? Did it mean I wasn’t connected with family and friends? Since joining twitter in 2013 I have certainly taken time to reflect and think about my digital footprint.

In my classroom my morning starts with the use of EDSBY to take attendance and communicate with students and teachers. I then turn to my computer and utilize many of the google suite apps to deliver my lessons, assign digital assignments and have my students create websites. Over the years I have used severeal different digital tools (kahoot, prezzi, quizlet, menti) in my classroom to attempt to increase engagement by adding variety. I do admit that technology has made my teaching a bit easier to manage and deliver over the years. However, with that said it certainly has its faults – the days when there isn’t enough technology for each student in my room, that the data isn’t available to all, that the app or program isn’t functioning properly. When technology goes down the stress level goes up – there are days when I think my students would learn just fine with pen and paper.

In my personal life I grapple with the need to be connected constantly. As a child I have memories of spending summers on an island in Quebec with no power or running water, a place where family and friends were connected socially through the use of two universal languages. A time when we were present in our social circle – not socializing in two or three places at once. I listened to a Ted Talk in my health class the other morning and the young girl speaking said “years back we wanted to share a feeling so we called someone, now we are hoping for a feeling to come our way.” I send my own kids out to knock on neighbours doors to play and socialize face to face. I make sure I take time to put my phone on silent, I try not to post items on my Facebook or Instagram that doesn’t look like I’m bragging about my life. My vision for my digital footprint is professional, make it useful and purposeful for myself and others. Do I think my way is right – absolutely not, but a balancing act it will continue to be.,

New Experiences – New Learnings – Summary to EC&I 834

It has been a great experience from start to finish. Prior to the onset of the pandemic I hadn’t really given much thought for the need to have blended learning in our schools. However, the pandemic brought on change and BOOM a different version of education was before us. This course has given me more insight to how education is evolving and how I could certainly adapt and change my classroom. Change is never easy but it can be rewarding. Thanks for a great term, hope you enjoy the collaborative efforts of Bret, Brianne and Leona. Cheers!

A Collaborative Effort – By Three

The Final Piece  – Coming Full Circle

In collaboration with my colleagues Bret and Brianne we have come to the end of designing our blended online course. The experience of collaboration, peer reflection and self evaluation has been a success. The final goal, a finished product that is usable in our teaching whether it be in a typical face to face classroom, a blended classroom or strictly an online version. Through the use of Google Classroom as our LMS we believe that we have developed a course that is simple to follow for both students and colleagues. Our course focuses on the outcomes and indicators in the Grade 8 Life Science Saskatchewan Curriculum – Cells, Tissues and Organ Systems. If you would like to join our classroom in the previous listed link you can login into google classroom with a gmail account and use this code (hyclltn) to become a student in our course.

Designing the Course – A Team Effort

Bret, Brianne and myself decided to collaborate on this course because as the saying goes “two heads are better than one” – so let’s just make it three. We selected the grade 8 science area because Bret and Brianne are currently teaching this in their classrooms and wanted to work on a project that could be implemented into their learning spaces. When designing a course together we had to be aware of our individual teaching styles, personal strengths and weaknesses and be willing to make accommodations. We believe that together as a team we have done a good job of creating an engaging course for students at Harbour Landing Elementary. Our first step in the whole process was to create the big picture and make the course profile. Next, we looked into the curriculum and divided up the outcomes so that each of our modules contained certain outcomes and indicators. We tried to make sure that our course had good flow within our modules so that students weren’t missing any key learning concepts. Lastly, we choose to keep a consistent theme for our slides so it would be less confusing for our students. However, we did decide that it would be okay to not worry about having identical teaching methods because the variation within our modules would provide engagement for all of our learners’ needs.

During this semester of class we had several informative conversations about creating online communities, the importance of making an online course accessible by all and explaining in our words the purpose of school. All of the conversations provided helpful insight into how we should continue to design our course shell to ensure that it became a valuable learning platform for everyone. At the halfway mark it was time to let others take a peek at our work and complete a peer review. What were they going to say? Would they think we were creating a useful course or would they think we were completely off track? Despite our nerves getting the best of us our reviewers provided us with some useful criticism and plenty of positive feedback.

Course Overview – Google Classroom

Together we developed a google classroom that allows students to be active participants in our course whether they be at home or in the classroom with us. In our google classroom we have set up an easy framework for our students to follow. Within the classwork section there are different categories the students can access. For example we have the general course information category – where they can find our contact information, a you-tube video on how to use google classroom, and a detailed outline of the course. There is also a section for each module that has been developed. Currently this course covers 3 of the 4 outcomes from the Saskatchewan Curriculum, if a teacher was planning to use the course they would likely need to complete a few more modules in order to fully complete the outcomes of the grade 8 science curriculum.

7 Signs of Strong Teamwork | LiquidPlanner

We have designed six modules that have a good flow of content knowledge from one to the next. In the first and second modules we focus on the history of the cell and its structures. In the third and fourth modules we move onto how the cell makes tissue and how tissues make organs. Finally in the fifth and sixth modules we make the connections between organs and organ systems and how they function to make a healthy human body. Throughout our modules we use a variety of different teaching methods, interactive digital tools and provide students with written and viewing learning opportunities. The modules all contain a summative or formative style of assessment where students complete a self reflection activity, a google form test, or an assignment with a provided rubric. We have attempted to find ways to ensure that there are relationship building opportunities between students and with their teacher by using a variety of digital tools and group activities to enhance the classroom community feel. 

In order to create a course that we believe could be accessible to all we designed the following course profile. In our course profile you will find a more comprehensive plan for the specifics of our course. In our course profile we go into greater detail about our target audience, the course LMS and digital tool box, our course communication options, assignments, materials and assessments to be used. Overall we were attempting to create a course that provided an education that is relevant and concurrent with the pace and needs of our digital world. We want to provide students with the opportunity to learn in a variety of ways, by learning through and with technology hopefully we can prepare them to be digitally literate.

A true pleasure to collaborate and work with great like minded professionals. Thanks Brianne and Bret, until the next time we get to work together!