Thanks for a great semester, everyone!
Blog prompt: Assistive technology:
Option 1: What are your experiences with assistive technology, and what are some of the challenges and limitations? What conclusions can you draw around the philosophical and theoretical understandings that underpin the technologies that you have used?
As I student, I cannot think of a time where I needed to use assistive technology. For my twin sister, though, it was and continues to be a big part of her life. She was born with cerebral palsy and walks with the assistance of a walker similar to the one pictured in this post. For her, assistive technology in the classroom usually meant anything that would help her physically get around the building. Ramps and elevators were key in her navigation of school buildings. As far as educational assistive tech, the only thing I recall was her using a laptop in high school and university for note taking. Her hand dexterity isn’t that great, so writing large amounts of notes (which was a pretty big thing and continues to be in many classrooms) was a challenge.
As a teacher, I am in a computer lab most of the time, so students are free to use any online translators that they wish to use. I always watch movies and television with subtitles when I am at home. This is something that started as a necessity as a new parent who was afraid to wake up his first born child. Now that I’m used to subtitles, I will never turn them off. My wife and I always turn them on, regardless of the television volume. It’s amazing how much you can miss because of poor sound mixing or because a character is muttering. In the classroom, I turn subtitles on whenever they’re available. This includes the often-poorly-generated YouTube subtitles that are more for comic effect than anything else.
Janeen shared with us the SETT framework, created by Dr. Joy Zabala (1994). This is a good framework to utilize when making decisions about assistive tech implementations. Some of it seems like common sense, but hey, acronyms are fun and answering all of these questions will give someone a much better idea as to what AT could be used to support the student(s).
In our breakout discussions, something that kept coming up what the fact that many of these adaptations are not just good for those that need them, but can be good for all learners. My sister, for example, who was told in several high school classes that she was not allowed to bring in her laptop to type notes, obviously needed technology to be successful with that kind of lecture-based instruction. She could have been allowed a laptop, or could have been provided the notes by the instructor. If the notes are available to her, why not make them available to everyone else? Unless the function of note taking is to practice penmanship or writing speed, something that hopefully by grade 10 or 11 students have figured out, I am not sure why notes would not be made available for all students.
Reid talked about a bunch of forms of wearable tech. While some of these are interesting in concept, there are some pretty serious data and privacy concerns. The video that Reid posted in the Discord and discussed tonight definitely highlighted that. This surveillance is very behaviourist in nature, and while I think some of the data it provides might be useful, the concept as well and the parents’ immediate access to the data concerned all of us.
I have a colleague that developed an online Wellness 10 course. The course was designed for students who felt uncomfortable doing physical education in a f2f setting. When he talked about the rationale for the course, I was reminded of my phys ed class in grade 10 where one of my (very overweight) peers was tasked with doing pushups for a fitness test. He could do two modified pushups. This online options was in part meant for people like him. The online wellness course hinged on wearable tech, as each student would be provided with heart rate monitors. With heart rate data combined with student-made videos, students would prove that they have met the application-based outcomes for the course.
I have three Pixel 2 XL phones at the school that we primarily use for video work. Last year, I purchased a couple of Google Daydream headsets for personal use. Reid also mentioned virtual field trips using VR, and once classrooms are a bit more back to normal I would like to explore more VR in my classroom.
As much as I hate to give credit to Microsoft, the team at Xbox has come out with an adaptive controller to allow though with physical limitations to play games that would otherwise have a difficult time participating in that medium. Check out the video below.
“UDL does not advocate any single teaching practice; rather, it combines today’s best approaches for engaging students and challenging them to think critically. It helps instructors meet the learning needs of a diverse student body through a combination of instructional modalities, formats, and technologies. To many people, UDL is simply good teaching!” (Ohio State Partnership Grant, 2011)
In the past, I have used things like colour coding to make my WordPress easier to navigate, but in looking through Darcy’s presentation I feel that there are ways that I can implement some of these ideas to make more WordPress even more accessible for students.
The Young & MacCormack article is definitely a longer read, but is incredibly useful in that it breaks down AT from low tech to high tech and breaks it down into domains like reading, writing, receptive, reasoning, and math. For each domain, there are suggestions for low tech, mid tech, high tech, and mobile apps. The article also mentions funding and training, which are two aspects that came up throughout the breakout rooms over the entirety of this course.
The Cranmer article was enlightening for me in that I have never worked with a student that has a visual impairment. I really enjoy the qualatative research when I get to read research responses in the words of the students. This summary stood out to me on page 326:
“In relation to enablers, the analysis showed children’s enthusiasm for digital use practices—both learning and accessibility—in terms of the attributes of technology complemented by their own skills; technical support provided by the school. In terms of constraints, children spoke of issues related to ongoing unreliability of technologies; occasional gaps in their own skills. There were also examples of subject teachers not meeting children’s expectations through continuation of outmoded practices; creation of stigma and added work load.”
This mirrors what I see in my classroom. Students are often enthusiastic, particularly with new tech, because it has a novelty factor. All students deal and teachers deal with reliability issues related to technology, but that can be particularly frustrating when you are relying on AT in order to meet course outcomes because there is no way without AT.
Follow up question: From the perspective of a student, what’s one piece of assistive tech that you would have appreciated in elementary, secondary, or post-secondary?
Blog prompt: Web 1.0 & Web 2.0: “The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being, and people influence the development and content of the web. The evolution of the web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and now to Web 3.0 can be used as a metaphor of how education should also be evolving, as a movement from Education 1.0 toward that of Education 3.0. The Web, Internet, Social Media, and the evolving, emerging technologies have created a perfect storm or convergence of resources, tools, open and free information access.” (Jackie Gerstein)
Discuss Gerstein’s metaphor. What impact does the shift to Web 3.0 have on education? What types of students and teachers are privileged/disadvantaged by the shift to Web 3.0? Make connections to tonight’s student presentation as well as the readings provided by the group.
Would have done better if (soon to be Dr.) Katia didn’t steal so much of my gold.
Honestly, we live in Saskatchewan. I believe we’re dead last in vaccine uptake, and generally not considered a very forward-thinking province. (Peiris: Saskatchewan’s new tax on electric vehicles a sign of more silliness to come). Much of our provincial curriculum is in desperate need of updating (and not the kind of updates Alberta is getting). With so many people championing memorization and banning Wikipedia outright (I’m guilty of this, too. Sometimes you have to pick your battles) instead of teaching students how to properly use it as a resource, I am not convinced that Web 3.0 is going to make a difference in Saskatchewan. At least, not for a while.
I have a feeling this crew might resist Web 3.0. Can they fight it in court, too?
Gerstein says that “Web 3.0 is affording us with relevant, interactive and networked content that is freely and readily available and personalized, based on individual interests.” This does not sound like our public education system as I have come to know it. While individual teachers can allow some personalization and flexibility, that is not how our school system is designed. There are (24?) required credits to graduate high school. The system is by design not very flexible. With many teacher’s horror stories about how poor engagement was during remote and hybrid learning, I am unsure if less structure and more flexibility will motivate students or demotivate them.
The Comparative Study of Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 was a good read. Where Katia noted in the chat that Web 2.0 is considered the “read-write” web, 3.0 is the ” ‘read-write-execute’ web. Web 3.0 is defined as the creation of high-quality content and services produced by gifted individuals using web 2.0 technologies as an enabling platform.”
This article was perhaps a bit too technical for my small brain, but it provided some context and history on these different web paradigm shifts.
In theory, the shift to Web 3.0 will provided traditionally marginalized voices with more of a voice than what is currently scene in the Western-straight-white-mail-dominated internet that I grew up using. When reading about Web 3.0, my concern is that the content a user sees seems heavily geared toward their interests based on previous web browsing history. Not only are there privacy concerns with this, it all emphasizes the internet feedback loop that we’ve been warned about so much in regard to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
Blog prompt: Assessment technologies: The way in which we choose to assess and evaluate students tells a great deal about where we perceive knowledge to be located in the classroom and how we believe that learning should be demonstrated and expressed. This, in turn, means that our choices around assessment technologies are of considerable importance. Think about your own classroom practice (past, present, and/or future). What do your choices (current or past) around the incorporation of assessment technologies tell us about your pedagogical and epistemological beliefs? Are there things that you might do differently now that you have examined your practices in this light? And how do your school and/or district-wide practices around assessment and assessment technologies align with your own?
Some technology-based assessment tools, like Class Dojo, may be psychologically damaging for students. Immediate connections were drawn between it and Pavlov’s Dog.
This year, I pivoted to using an LMS called Schoolantis for students to hand in the majority of work for my courses. In some cases, tasks are more of a formative check-in so I can give them some quick feedback in the comments section of the assignment. It’s not the most visually appealing LMS, but it connects directly with Microsoft OneDrive, where the majority of student work is stored. It works well for students in that they can see at a glance what they have to do and what they are still working on. For me, I can tell at a glance exactly what has been handed in by each student.
Assessment varies from task to task. In some cases, I copy the assignment rubric to students along with the assignment itself. That rubric is editable by them, and in some cases I ask that they self-evaluate prior to submitting the assignment to me. I will then go through that rubric and evaluate the assignment. They see this feedback immediately as it is attached to Schoolantis as I am editing the live document. It’s interesting to see the self-evaluations, as I may have them highlight their self-eval in green, and then I will evaluate with yellow. Often students are harder on themselves than I am on them.
With many tasks, students have the opportunity to correct the mistakes that were made initially and can re-submit the assignment with the issues corrected. We try to go for master as much as possible.
As far as other tech tools I use in evaluation, I have used Kahoot, Microsoft/Google Forms, and FlipGrid with some success. Kahoot is great for lower-level stuff. The competitive nature, even though there are issues with that, is something that many students enjoy, and the immediate feedback is effective. For Microsoft and Google Forms, I usually use the short/long answer questions. This obviously doesn’t speed up my assessment process at all. They’re mostly used as a way for me to organize so that I have all of my eggs in one basket. Years ago I would have students used a shared folder to submit work, or would have them submit via email.
With the tools I used currently, I think it’s clear that I value formative feedback and students taking ownership of their work. By the time a finished product gets to me in a PAA class, the students have seen examples, have reviewed a rubric, and have received feedback along the way from me and from their peers. One tool that I love for formative assessment is Microsoft Office. The commenting functionality was incredibly useful when I used to teach ELA classes and was invaluable for peer editing. With my current courses, I use it to comment on storyboard and script work that student submit.
Regina Catholic has a system-wide document for high school evaluation and assessment. It breaks down components like what should and should not be evaluated for marks, as well as category weightings for different kinds of courses. There is a common weighting, for example, of a 20-level math final. I’m going to pretend that I know what the weighting is, so let’s pretend that it’s 25%. So, assuming that teachers are following the document, all math finals in Regina Catholic are worth 25% of a student’s overall mark. There is nothing specific in this document about evaluation using technology. For the most part, I don’t have an issue with this document, but the rigidity of these set percentages does hinder teacher autonomy. I get the need for consistency, but I do not agree with the one-size-fits-all approach.
Having examined my practices within the context of these readings and this presentation, I like to think that I’m doing some good things. I think that I do need to get better at giving timely feedback. A lot of that is a function of how busy I am with other aspects of my job. I need to streamline some of the processes, and maybe tech like plickers can help me with that. My biggest issue is that a lot of the meaningful feedback that I want to give is not a multiple choice, “this answer is right, and this one is wrong” scenario. That meaningful feedback can take some time. I appreciate Chohan’s point about humanizing feedback. On Schoolantis, there have been many instances where I will use the comment function to have a dialogue with a student after the assignment is submitted. This might be quick note of encouragement, or perhaps the student missed a portion of the assignment. This live document allows me to check in with students and to continue the learning process beyond the student just receiving the mark or the rubric back. And it’s quick and easy to have these dialogues given the technology available. The reading shared this week from Thomas gives me a lot of good ideas for formative assessment. I’ve never really thought about doing an tech-based exit slip. I think the big thing here is finding a tool that works best for the needs of my students and me and sticking with it. I brought this up in the Discord tonight. Students are busy juggling a whole bunch of different tech tools since they’re in 4-5 courses a day in high school. Throwing a new assessment tool at them every few days, even if the novelty of it makes it engaging, may frustrate and alienate students. I need to find something that works and stick with it.
It was also great to see that these tools have research to back them up. From the Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology:
“Moreover, the findings showed that using Plickers for formative assessment aid the learning process as it improves students’ participation; saves the learning time, guarantees equal participation opportunities, and creates fun and exciting learning environment. The findings also encourage instructors to integrate technology tools such as Plickers in their classrooms to help them assess the effectiveness of their teaching and their students’ learning.”
The presenters did an excellent job sharing some of the pros and cons of some of these tools, such as Plickers. I look forward to trying out Plickers to bring some low-tech tech into my classroom.
I messed and and did both the part 1 and part 2 posts for the Online Tools portion and missed the post about productivity suites, so here it goes:
Blog prompt: Productivity suites & presentation tools: This video, titled “Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking, addresses the extent to which multi-tasking has become the new norm for work and suggests that we need to find better ways to focus on only one item at a time. Watch the video and write a blog post in response to the following questions: Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions? And to what extent have the productivity tools discussed today made us more “productive” (or are they only necessary because we now live in a world of distractions)? Are we more productive than we were pre-Internet and pre-Microsoft Office? Be sure to make connections to tonight’s student presentation as well as the readings provided by the group.
I feel as though most workplaces on significantly more productive because of the internet and Microsoft Office tools. From my perspective as a teacher, most of my planning for instruction and assessment are done using the internet and Microsoft Office programs. I could not imagine how much more time my job would take if I was looking up information in books or if I was using a typewriter to create documents. Most of the work I do is paperless, and my courses are very technology-based, so pulling the ethernet cables out or telling students that they would not be able to use the office suite would drastically change what I teach and how I teach it.
I did a bit of research and found this article from the New Yorker (What happened to the Internet Productivity Miracle?). This quote jumped out at me:
“Once practically everybody was permanently online, with the entire resources of the Internet at their fingertips, surely productivity would take another quantum leap.
It didn’t happen!
Since the start of 2005, productivity growth has fallen all the way back to the levels seen before the Web was commercialized, and before smart phones were invented. During the eight years from 2005 to 2012, output per hour expanded at an annual rate of just 1.5 per cent—the same as it grew between 1973 and 1996. More recently, productivity growth has been lower still. In 2011, output per hour rose by a mere 0.6 per cent, according to the latest update from the Labor Department, and last year there was more of the same: an increase of just 0.7 per cent. In the last quarter of 2012, output per hour actually fell, at an annual rate of 1.9 per cent. Americans got less productive—or so the figures said.”
I then began thinking back to James Hamblin from the video linked in the prompt. What distractions are people facing not just in my workplace, but in other workplaces? I sometimes reflect on how much time I spend during a day reading and responding to emails. What was it like teaching thirty years ago when I didn’t have to spend all of my time doing this? Do emails make my job easier or harder? Do emails make me a better teacher or make my students better learners?
Do I have difficulty focusing on a single task? Though I don’t think I’m nearly as unfocused as James, I do have quite a few tabs open right now:
Eight tabs. All of the tabs are related to my current task, which is writing this blog post. Because the screenshot is small, here’s what they are”
- Christina’s Blog Post from this week — because I screwed up and did two posts on the same topic.
- The Weekly Plans for this class (which I won’t link on here)
- A reading from this week (Google vs. Microsoft)
- Another reading from this week (How Google took over the classroom)
- A third reading from this week (Link)
- The video from this week
- The post I’m currently writing.
- The New Yorker article that I just referenced
This is pretty indicative of how I usually work. I’m not on a random Wikipedia page. I do not have multiple Facebook tabs open. Particularly when I am physically at work, I feel as though I am getting paid to work, so I try my best to avoid those distractions. I’m never on my cell phone during class time, and I am rarely on it when I am on my prep period. Last year I removed my work email from my phone in an effort to have a better work/life balance, so there is really no reason for me to be on my phone during a work day unless I am killing time during lunch.
Overall, in my circumstance, I feel as though my job is easier and that I do a better job of it because of the tools at my disposal (Internet and Office suite). That being said, there are some definite disadvantages. In the breakout room discussion, many pointed to privacy concerns regarding how much data Microsoft and Google now have some our school systems. The article shared this week on Google taking over classrooms (my 4th tab), makes an interesting point, as well”
“Google is helping to drive a philosophical change in public education — prioritizing training children in skills like teamwork and problem-solving while de-emphasizing the teaching of traditional academic knowledge, like math formulas. It puts Google, and the tech economy, at the center of one of the great debates that has raged in American education for more than a century: whether the purpose of public schools is to turn out knowledgeable citizens or skilled workers.”
Are students at a disadvantage in the workplace if they do not know their way around Microsoft/Google programs? Is it our job to turn out skilled workers? As someone with a lot of experience in Office Suites, who sees students in computer labs on a regular basis, I would argue that students are less knowledgeable in these suites than they were when I was in elementary and high school, despite having to rely on them more and more and at an earlier age. Student at the high school regularly have issues with basic things like knowing where they saved a file, adding a printer, or knowing how to do basic formatting in Microsoft Word. If our goal is to turn out students who are fluent in these programs (that’s not our goal), then we are, based on my observations, doing a very poor job at it.
From the discussions on the night of this presentation, the one thing that stood out as an advantage over these “new” cloud-connected Office suites is the potential for peer editing and quicker feedback. If I teacher is so inclined, they can go paperless and give students comments and feedback as they’re writing. Students can do peer editing without having to rely on a classroom printer functioning properly. Another one of the article provided by this group does a good job doing through some of the benefits of these suites. Among them, maximizing collaboration, cross-curricular implications, and providing professional development to make the switch to these suites an easy shift. This includes making sure that parents are educated as to why and how students are going to use these tools in their learning.
I kill a lot of time on technology. More than I probably should. But I also know that my productivity this space is much higher than it would be in a tech-free setting. What is important, and what James speaks to in the video, is being mindful and being mentally present. That has to be be done consciously. During the presentations for this class, as an example, I have my phone on silent and only have the zoom room on my screen. In the past, with synchronous sessions, I have tried to work on blog posts during Zooms, and I find that I end of up doing a poor job of both the blogging and listening during the Zoom. Once I had to go back and re-listen to the entire Zoom because I was so focused on blogging. Not the most productive way to do things.
Prompt: Part 2: If you moved to partly or fully remote teaching this past school year, how did you bring/could you have brought these tools into your current context? How did the shift to online, blended, or remote learning affect your experience, and (how) were you able to use tools to support your teaching? OR If you did not move to a remote context this year, how would you feel about teaching with these tools in an online or distance education class, and how would your current context be impacted if you were to shift to an online/distance format vs. face to face? Be sure to make connections to tonight’s student presentation as well as the readings provided by the group.
I utilized all of the tools mentioned in my previous post during remote learning. The nice thing about it for me and for students is that the routine was something they were used to. Go to my website and see what’s up for the day. That part didn’t change. What did change is my method of delivery (Live via Microsoft Teams or screen recorded using a mixture of Teams, QuickTime, and Camtasia). It went as well as it could have given the level of attendance of engagement that I was receiving from students. In tonight’s activity revolving around distance learning, many noted the frustration with lack of attendance and overall student productivity. Many teachers were working harder than ever before trying ton engage students, and many student simply weren’t pulling their weight.
One of the articles provided this week, written by Patricia Ananga, confirms this sentiment:
“In an interesting twist, e-learning is seen as an educational means that involves technology, communication, efficiency, and self-motivation (Bloomsburg University, 2006). This perspective goes further to indicate that due to the limited social interaction that exist between student-student and student-instructor, it is very necessary for the students to motivate themselves and have frequent communication to ensure that assigned tasks could be accomplished.” (312)
That intrinsic motivation that Ananga references, at least in the experience of many of the secondary teachers in this EC&I course, simply wasn’t present. Between emails, phone calls, messages via Remind and Microsoft Teams, there was only so much I could do to motivate students to participate in remote learning. I also got the sense from parents that they were unsure how to motivate their children, as well.
The Caruth article from this week, which outlines some of the historical context of remote learning, outlines seven aspects for assessing effective online learning:
In reflecting back on some of the work that I did during remote learning, I feel that I hit a lot of these areas with the assessments that I was doing. For achievability, I often focused on tasks that students would be able to achieve within the span of the class time for that day. Whereas in a f2f situation I might have something take multiple days of build up before any type of assessment, I found that having smaller assessments worked better for students. I tried to keep assessments as practical as possible, thus hitting the believability aspect. Assessments were measurable with examples, rubrics, and with explanations. Through smaller tasks and assessments I feel as though that kept student focus and motivation more than the alternative. I probably could have given students 2-3 weeks to work on their final portfolios during remote learning, but giving that much “free time” to students who had already had a less-than-productive hybrid learning experience was not going to be a good experience for anyone.
I think that the biggest impact that remote learning had on me was on my mental health. Though I had my wife at home with my during remote learning, I found the experience very isolating. Occasionally I had live sessions with a tenth of the students that were on my attendance list. I felt useless teaching to such a small number of students, and I received very few assignments in “on-time.” I missed socializing with my students, my friends, and my colleagues from work. While I tried to keep as productive as possible planning for future remote and hybrid learning, as well as taking graduate courses, It was difficult for me to stay positive. I realize that I was in a very privileged position to be able to work from home and receive my full salary, I just felt horrible in that despite some long work hours and additional communication required during remote learning, I did not feel as though I was really earning my wage– at least, certainly not to the extent that I feel I earn my wage during a more traditional teaching year. (Complete with all of the additional volunteer work that I do not get compensated for).
Caruth, G. D., & Caruth, D. L. (2013). Distance education in the United States: From correspondence courses to the Internet. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 14(2), 141-149.
Prompt: Part 1: Thinking of your own context, what tools for online and blended learning seem most useful/relevant and why? To what extent do the tools we use impact both the teacher’s and the students’ learning experiences?
My context: Secondary Teacher in Regina. Most students have access to the internet at home.
I have been using this WordPress space for probably nine of my twelve years teaching. What started out as a place to give student occasional updates soon turned into a bit of an online “day planner” where students could see what was happening in class every day with links to resources, assignments, and due dates. I’ve had it attached to the URL www.mikegwolf.com for maybe six years or so. It impacts me by making my job a bit easier in some ways. If a students missed a day, the initial onus is on them to check out the content before after me questions about it. It also keeps me more organized and accountable in that sometimes I forget when we start a particular unit or when an assignment or presentation is due. For students, it keeps them organized and particularly for students who away from school for an extended period of time, it gives them the broad strokes of what they had missed in class. Though it does not make up for missing face-to-face experiences, I try to explain things on here in a way that students should be able to follow allow with even if that are not in class.
I use Kahoot sometimes to review concepts as a way to check for understanding. It is fairly elementary, but students like the competitive nature of it and often in that scenario I have students surprise me with their knowledge. From my perspective, this shows me which students are having struggles and with which concepts. For them, it gives them a bit of a brain break because the questions usually require low-level thinking and some memory recall.
Students use website designers such as WIX to create portfolios to display their work over the course of the semester. In Communication Media classes, I used to teach students some basic coding and how to design a website, but with editors like WIX that students can instead focus on making the final product look appealing instead of worrying about some of the intricacies and problem solving that come with web design. Like my website that I use as a daily planner, this portfolio puts the onus on students. In a Practical and Applied Arts classroom, where the goal is to produce content, an empty or lackluster portfolio at the end of the semester shows me and shows each student how much they have achieved (or not achieved) over the course of the semester. I sometimes share these URLs with parents, as well, so that can see their child’s progress.
During blended and Remote Learning, I utilized Microsoft Teams as that was a directive from our school division. For fully remote learning, I would have live lessons every week day. If attendance was good, I emphasized the communal aspect of the platform and did Jamboards and breakout room to encourage interactivity and engagement. One Friday when I was particularly declassified with that week’s attendance, I send out a message to students saying that we would be playing some Jackbox games just for fun. Attendance was great that day and we had a lot of fun. The live aspect of Teams meetings was meant to foster a sense of community. While this worked to an extent, most students preferred to have their cameras off and rarely used their microphones.
Other tools I use, but less frequently:
What you’re go-to ed tech tool? How do you use it? What do you love about it? I would love to add some new ones to my arsenal.
Blog prompt: Considering the readings and presentations, write a blog post that addresses the following: What is your personal definition of educational technology, and what connections can you make between this definition and the historical and philosophical origins of edtech? Which theories of knowledge and/or learning underpin your own teaching philosophy and classroom practice? How have your beliefs shifted or changed over the course of your teaching career thus far?
Educational technology is technology that aids in the facilitation of learning. It is not necessarily technology that was designed for an educational purpose, as we talked during the first class about soft and hard technologies. I feel that my definition is in line with the historical origins of edtech. In his short history of edtech, Bates references oral communication, written communication, broadcasting and video, computer-based learning, computer networking, online learning environments, social media, and the paradigm shift in education that has come about because of the Internet. Given the ability that the internet has provided for interaction, the reading on connectivism reminded me of the post-Web 2.0 push to leverage the interactivity of the internet to allow learning engage students in online learning in ways that were not possible before.
Before I speak the theories of knowledge and learning underpin my own teaching philosophy, I should first provide some edtech context. When I was in primary and secondary school, I enjoyed technology very much. In high school, I gravitated toward technology-heavy courses. Information Processing, which I took in grade 10, was taught in a very behaviourist/cognitivist way. It was all about repetition and drills to get the desired result. While I enjoyed parts of the course, I found that it that there was not much emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving, or creating. In computer science, much like information processing, Locke’s “learning being acquired through experience” was very applicable. If I was to learn, I needed to practice. In computer science, the trial and error of it and the problem solving were a huge draw for me. I experienced more of a constructivist style of learning, in that I could take what I had learned and could extend things beyond what I had been taught to create new programs. Memorization, though there was a set structure to programming language, was not emphasized nearly as much as it was in some of my other courses If I wasn’t sure about something, I had a computer at my fingertips. I could look up the information and fill the gaps in my knowledge.
The ultimate “fun” class for me in secondary school was Communication Production Technology (CPT), which is now called Communication Media. The course was structured into several different modules, but allowed for a significant amount of flexibility. In reading about Connectivism (Siemens), CPT seemed to have a lot of its principles:
Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
CPT had a lot of opportunity for group work, as we often had projects that lent themselves to group work, such as animation, videos, or website design. One of my favourite memories from the class was going to the Yorkton Film Festival to do a workshop. Several groups of students were given a video task and had to do the pre-production, shooting, and editing in the span of about 24 hours. It put skills to the test in a very time-sensitive way. Students had to work out role and responsibilities for the production, and often students would push themselves out of their comfort zone to have a more rewarding learning experience.
Taking CPT was a big part of why I decided to go into business education, and business educators were typically ones that had enough technology know-how to teach that course. As an educator, most of what I do comes the as constructivist point of view. I teach primarily in practical and applied arts courses like Communication Media and Photography. Memorization is not a big priority in my courses, and the same could be said when I taught in the Humanities department (English Language Arts and Social Studies). “The constructivist position assumes that transfer can be facilitated by involvement in authentic tasks anchored in meaningful contexts” (Ertmer & Newby, 56). I would much rather my students demonstrate their knowledge through their photos, videos, and portfolios than have them memorize the steps in the production process or the parts of a DSLR camera. I have a colleague in my department that teachers computer science with a very similar mindset. He is not concerned with students memorizing functions and formulas for computer science. He is concerned about students using their knowledge in authentic tasks to prove that they have a solid foundation in the programming language and that they can demonstrate problem solving abilities.
Despite a lot of my constructivist tendencies when student choice in learning, I subscribe to some aspects of cognitive learning theories. This one by Robert Gagne that Katia shared in her video reminds me of some of my early theory lessons in Photography and Communication Media.
In reading Neil Postman’s Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change, I find myself often thinking about the first idea is poses, that there is always going to be some kind of tradeoff when using new technology. I still use some tried-and-true technologies like Remind (formerly Remind 101), FlipGrid, WordPress, and MicroSoft Word on a regular basis. I recognize, particularly in my courses, that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Particularly during remote learning and hybrid learning, I focused my teaching and projects much more on mobile applications than I would during normal circumstances. For the most part, when I am using technology in the classroom, I prefer the motto “If it aint broke don’t fix it.” Students are familiar with Kahoot, for example. That familiarity allows them a comfort level that they may not have with some other edtech formative assessments. That’s not to say that I avoid new tools. I am often on the hunt for new technology that will enhance learning and what I am providing for students both inside and outside of the classroom.
This highlights one of the ways that I think that my beliefs have changed during my teaching career. I feel that as I have become more experienced and have allowed myself to have less strict control over the classroom. But that I mean that I do a lot less lecturing than I used to when I first started teaching. The students learn from me, certainly, but I learn from them, as well, and enjoy exploring new avenues of learning with them instead of teaching that same content that I taught ten years ago purely out of a selfish need to stay in my comfort zone. I had a few students who were really into computer hardware this year, so I decided for the first time ever that I would have students build their own computers from spare parts. The students loved the task, and did some video tutorials along the way so that we could hit a few outcomes at the same time.
It’s been a physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually draining semester, but I have very much appreciated the opportunity to be in this class and learn from all of you. This is my last of two courses that I have had with Dr. Couros, and I am very thankful for him and for this course as it has allowed me the time to critically think about what I am doing within blended learning environments and what I can do better.
Post will go here.