Category Archives: EC&I 830 Weekly Reflections

EC&I 830: Summary of Learning

It’s hard to believe both my school year and my student’s school year is coming to an end! It’s been a highly enjoyable semester, and I’d like to thank everyone who was a part of it. Below is a link to my summary of learning for this semester. This is my first time using an unlisted YouTube Video, so please let me know if something doesn’t work properly!

Good luck to everyone continuing with their programs, and congratulations to those who are finishing up. Have a great summer!

Debate #8: Is Online Education Detrimental to the Social and Academic Development of Children?

Debate #8: Is Online Education Detrimental to the Social and Academic Development of Children?

The last class debate, and certainly one that I was looking forward to. The Covid-19 Pandemic thrust the education world into an unplanned version of emergency online learning. While this unprecedented time was certainly a change for everyone, the high majority of our population now has some experience with online learning. Although emergency pandemic learning and properly planed online learning should certainly not be compared as equals, the growth in the student number and discussion on the benefits of online learning have grown exponentially. Therefore, educators, policy makers and the public are starting to ask, Is Online education detrimental to the social and academic development of children?

Kayla, Britney, and I certainly enjoyed debating with Kat, Chris and Arkin. I appreciated several of their insightful points, and in particular starting their opening statement a land acknowledgment. Within the last few years, I have become quite interested in Treaty and Indigenous Education, and I appreciated the respect and time given to read the land acknowledgment before their side of the debate.

 Throughout the debate, my conclusion was drawn from a mixture of one of our points, and one of Chris’. To me, online education can be a good alternative to a brick-and-mortar classroom for a small percentage of the overall population orused as a supplement to traditional education courses. The main points that led to this are outlined in paragraphs below.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Online education benefits affluent, mature, self-motivated students, who are capable of learning and working with little to no direct supervision. Unfortunately, this means that online education remains nearly impossible for those of a lower socioeconomic status, young students (particularly those in early primary years,) and those who run into internet speed/access issues based on their location. Through one of the articles our group shared, a study was done in 2013 (important to note as it’s prior to the pandemic,) in which the research team investigated the lack of access for Indigenous Australian students. They found that “online learning will in fact be hugely detrimental to this section of Australian society and will see the potential for a widening of the gap in education.” It is important to notice the parallels between this study and the lack of quality internet access found on some reserves and rural land here in Canada.

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Throughout Britney’s portion of the debate, she touched on the differences in mental health supports and concerns in an online teaching environment. The online environment, with a possible lack of webcams, makes it easier for students to ‘disappear,’ while also make it difficult for teachers to pick up on the behavioral cues of their students. The lack of recognition of what could be considered obvious cues within the traditional classroom, can result in less teacher directed support for mental health issues. Additionally, counselling or learning support looks very different in the online world. It is much easier for students to avoid/hide from tough conversations, which can make it difficult for all supports to be confident in knowing how a student is truly feeling.

For students with disabilities, technology and online education can have a large variety of affects. For students who are able to engage with computers and technology with a high degree of independence, online education can be extremely beneficial. Apps, software and assistive technology, can be extremely helpful with communication skills, diagnoses such as dyslexia and dysgraphia, while being in a separate environment may also help those with high amounts of anxiety. Furthermore, as written on onlinedegrees.com learning online allows the “ability to work at their own pace, reviewing materials and video lectures as needed. For students with certain types of disabilities, like dyslexia and visual processing disorder, the ability to manipulate digital texts — by, say, changing the font style or size — can help them process and retain written information more effectively than they would viewing PowerPoint presentations in class or reading through traditional textbooks.” However, students with disabilities that affect their life to a higher degree physically or cognitively, can find great difficulty engaging in an online environment, particularly without the numerous direct or one-to-one supports that are common in a traditional school setting. This can also be tough for parents, as many are not prepared or able to fully support their student during typical school hours.

Throughout my section, I explained that while some classes can be taught to a high quality online, many classes that contain a major practical component, such as practical and applied arts, physical education or science classes, cannot be matched to the same degree online. While it is possible to teach a large portion of the theory online, practical, or hand-on projects that require specialized equipment are nearly impossible to replicate in every home. This fact alone can greatly affect the academic development of students, as it has the potential to affect their decisions for postsecondary schooling, along with potential career choices. Good points about hybrid learning were brought up in the debate, and while I recognize that this cannot be beneficial for every student, the possibility of seeing hybrid models increase in the future certainly interests me.

I also touched on extra-curricular involvement, and the differences in the online world. As many extra-curricular programs are athletic or performance based, it is quite difficult to replicate this in an online setting. Athletics and the arts alike vary greatly when you try and replicate them virtually. Additionally, many students learn and develop social, group and life skills while participating in extracurricular activities. Not offering these same opportunities to online students can certainly affect their social development.

To wrap this up, I’ve come to believe that online education, or a hybrid of such, can be beneficial to a small percentage of students, but also has the potential to be detrimental to many. Students that are mature, affluent, self-motivated, and self-disciplined may be able to succeed online, while granting themselves the flexibility that comes with online learning. However, students that benefit from the traditional supports within brick and mortar schools, struggle with motivation, lack access, or are simply are younger in age/grade, will benefit from the utilizing the traditional school system in comparison.

I’d like to thank Dr. Katia Hildebrandt and all the members of EC&I 830. This class was extremely enjoyable to be a part of, and I’m happy to have shifted some of my own teaching philosophies as a direct result from the meaningful discussions this term. Good luck to everyone going forward in their programs, and congratulations to those who are finishing their degrees! Have a great summer all!

Debate #7: Do Educators Have a Responsibility to Help Students Develop a Digital Footprint?

Our last week. This is the first time I’ve taken a spring class, and although I knew the pacing would feel quite different than my previous fall and winter classes, I’m still surprised we’re here already. Within this debate, I once again got hung up on the word responsibility. Developing a Digital Footprint can certainly be beneficial, but is it the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that this happens and that it happens efficiently?

As Rae and Funmi explained, your Digital Footprint is the virtual trail left by your interactions in the online world. As the debaters mentioned, it is important to realize that your digital footprint includes both purposeful and passive data- in other words, data you mean to post online, and data that may be collected about you based on your behaviour, interactions, etc. I appreciated our discussion around the importance of teaching students how this information may stay present online forever, and therefore educators should do their best to help students learn about how to act appropriately online. Dan Spada explains the basics wonderfully in the first few minutes from his video titled Teaching Students About Digital Footprints and Digital Citizenship.

Those interested in his video should definitely go through and watch the entirety. He has links to a Teachers Pay Teachers lesson that allows you to go through numerous digital citizenship related skills that are important to teach to students, as well as numerous videos on related topics.

However, getting back to the debate, as mentioned, I continue to get hung up on the term responsibility. Gertrude and Kim indicated during their portion that topics such as a digital footprint is encompassing all areas of a student’s life, and therefore requires a ‘global village’ to assist. Government and family involvement are important in doing their part to allow students to find success in developing their digital footprint. These sectors are extremely important, particularly when we consider data and privacy. As screen time increases in our society, the potential for data to be farmed from our interactions does not slow down when a child is behind the screen.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The Sydney Morning Herald published an opinion piece about TikTok and the need to protect children’s privacy, in which they quoted an expert that estimates

“by a child’s 13th birthday, advertisers will have gathered on average more than 72 million data points about them.”

https://amp-smh-com-au.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/amp.smh.com.au/national/tiktok-time-s-up-to-protect-children-s-privacy-20210726-p58cyx.html

With the mind-blowingly large amount of data being collected from our children and students, should we put the responsibility of increasing a child’s online presence onto teachers and teachers alone? To me, it wouldn’t make sense to. The online world is a topic that far exceeds the hours in the day that educators have control over. Participation from the government and family sectors are pivotal to support children throughout the entirety of their childhood.

Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels.com

On a slight tangent, educators, administrators, and school division personnel should be wary of the collection and storage of student data, both within their own systems, and on the systems of the applications that they roll out within their schools. While it is known that there are several school divisions within the province that are wary of or will refuse to allow teachers to use software that lacks data storage transparency, school division use and distribution of student information or photos can also be debated. Colin Anson-Smith wrote a thought-provoking article, that includes discussion on the common ‘all or nothing’ photo/media release consent forms that are common on the first few days of school/at registration. He writes:

“If schools are collecting parent consent using a bundled ‘all-or-nothing’ approach, they are unknowingly breaking the law. Privacy regulators and industry experts generally advise against bundled consent because it will rarely ever meet the test of proper consent; that is, consent that is voluntary, informed, current, and specific.”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-ok-share-student-photos-online-heres-why-colin-anson-smith/?trk=public_profile_article_view

Through the debate and preparing for this blog post, it’s become more apparent to me where I stand on this issue. Rather than curating an online profile, platform or digital footprint, educators and policy makers should focus on facilitating quality digital citizenship education, particularly in elementary aged students. Creating good habits early, through the teaching of appropriate digital skills, will allow students to learn how they can stay safe online, while also allowing them the opportunity to decide if they’d like to expand their digital footprint as they age.

Debate #6: Cellphones- Do they have a place in our classrooms?

Cellphones. Likely the world’s most used tool, but it’s place in our classrooms is a continual debate. I’ve used just about every cellphone rule I’ve heard of over my 6 years of teaching, with yet to find one that I have 100% confidence in.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve taught grade 8 for a number of years now, and cellphones have been more common each and every year. I’ve had all out bans, had many surrendered to my desk drawer, taken several to the office, had phone baskets, and wall ‘hotels.’  I eventually evolved and in the last few years have attempted to teach responsible use, taking a much more relaxed stance on them. I’ve had varying success with all, yet haven’t found one set of rules that I am happy and confident with.

Coincidentally, eighth grade was the same time I got my first cell phone. I bring this up, because I remember the excitement, and comfort that middle school students feel, knowing they are connected to their friends and family. This isn’t even mentioning the ability of having a device that allows you to tap into the bulk of recorded information in human history. This being said, I certainly recognize many of the points Echo, Lovepreet, Amanpreet mentioned during their portion of the debate. It’s true, cell phones do distract a high majority of my students. I’ve dealt with numerous cases of cyberbullying, nearly all of which surrounded cell phone use. Screen time is a constant worry with our youth, and cellphones exasperate that greatly. They are extremely expensive, and the amount of broken or stolen phones that we deal with every year is far too high.

However, even with all of this being said, (I feel like a broken record at this point,) I feel that teaching personal responsibility and strong Digital Literacy Skills will allow students to engage in the many benefits that comes with having access to a device, while hopefully mitigating the negatives that I mentioned above.

As Bret, Reid, and Leona mentioned, our world has changed; technology is here for good and separating our student’s lives into a ‘connected’ world at home and a ‘disconnected’ world at school seems to go directly against 21st century teaching practices.

Technology is an integral part of life, and allowing them access to their devices (when it is appropriate to do so,) will mimic their lives after school. There are very few careers that have employees that are not available via phone, the internet, or social media, so why should our students be?

I could continue to push for why I believe that cellphones do have a place in the classroom, but I was quite impressed by one of the suggested viewings for this week, in which Sam Kerry discusses his feelings on utilizing cellphones in classrooms. Sam and I share thoughts on many points, including the increase in accessibility, the potential for interactive lessons, and creative uses that will explode in the future, such as augmented and virtual reality.


In my personal experience, not only does incorporating cell phones in the classroom give more (and sometimes more efficient) access to technology, it also has the potential to increase engagement with unique lesson design. Bring your own device programs are extremely beneficial in allowing schools and students to bridge that funding and access to technology gap. Teaching responsible use also instills trust in your students, most of which greatly appreciate that trust, and tend to abide by the expectations in most situations.

When positive digital citizenship skills are modelled and taught consistently to our students, I find the benefits of cell phone use in the classroom can greatly outweigh the negatives. (All of this being said, it would certainly be interesting if all school divisions could be funded in a way that would allow for one-to-one devices, possibly eliminating the need for this debate. But that is a discussion for another day!)

Debate #4: Educators, Responsibility, and Social Justice

Debate #4 was possibly the most personally interesting debate yet. While much of the discussion on the surrounding factors was intriguing, I found the wording of the prompt to be extremely important. For those of you who were not present in class, the prompt read:

“Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice. Agree or Disagree?”

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Our class overwhelmingly accepted that teachers and those in positions of power or influence should be strong supporters of social justice. As Kari, Jennifer, and Jessica, discussed, encouraging teachers to remain neutral on devise issues is simply not good enough in today’s society.

All images via Plexels.

 As Angela Watson writes on her Truth for Teachers Blog, “So for us to say our role is to be neutral is to operate from a place of privilege. Not privilege as in wealth — that’s just one of many types of privilege, and one that most educators don’t have. Our place of privilege is choosing not to pay attention to these stories or take a position on them because we are not personally impacted.”

If we do not stand up to inequalities and injustices, we are allowing them to continue to remain commonplace (both in our physical and online worlds.) This is behaviour that we cannot afford to model for our students if we want them to grow up in a more accepting world than we did.

However, Dalton and Brooke also explained numerous reasons why teachers may not want to pursue divisive topics online. Many teachers, particularly those new to the profession may be fearful of tarnishing relationships with parents, administration or colleagues, as well as worry about how their online presence may affect future career prospects. Teachers may also fear repercussions or lack of support from professional boards if they do speak out online.

Personally (as Kelly pointed out during our live discussion,) I find the term responsibility is extremely important when discussing this debate. In the context of this debate topic, the term responsibility could be easily construed as a synonym for requirement. Debates about the constant increase in teacher ‘responsibilities’ (that are more often than not actually requirements,) seems to have increased each year during my career.

This got me thinking- If we were to reword our prompt to include numerical values, I believe the prompt could remain quite similar in nature, but be viewed quite differently. If a school division or administration was to come out and proclaim something such as “Educators are required to use technology and social media to promote social justice by publishing 10 Tweets per week” we would likely see many different, (and possibility still a variety) of responses.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Additional issues arise when you consider some educators that may not be as well-versed in technology, social media, or digital citizenship as their colleagues. How would we address this?

Additionally, would this requirement ‘water down,’ strong conversations on social justice with posts from teachers that may not feel (or write) strongly about the topics? Or even if the posts and tweets are not all of high quality, would this further conversations in a positive manner anyway?

Personally, I find it may come down to becoming more specific. Do I believe that teachers have a moral responsibility to be staunch supporters of social justice online and in person? I absolutely do.

Do I believe that all teachers should be required to discuss social justice online and in person? That, I’m not convinced of yet.

Debate #3: Should Schools Teach What Technology Can Do?

Last week, our ECI 830 class had the privilege of debating 2 more topics within the field of EdTech. This week’s first debate is one that is constantly discussed within my middle-school sphere: Should schools no longer teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology?

I was quite impressed with the debaters on both sides, as I found myself understanding and agreeing with points that each group presented. As we’ve discussed a multitude of times throughout this class and EC&I 831, technology can be of great benefit both in our personal lives, and inside the classroom. While I’ve wrote previously about my appreciation for technology, I’ve found that using technology in the classroom comes down to two keywords: engagement and efficiency. If I can use technology or tech tools in a way that increases my student’s engagement with the material, or in a way that allows us to accomplish our goals with equal quality in a faster manner, it’s use seems like a ‘no-brainer’ to me.

However, where I become more reserved in accepting a ‘full technology’ approach to these traditional skills, revolves around the quality of results. One of the large points discussed during Alyssa, Kelly, and Durston’s portion of the debate was surround the teaching of spelling, and this is a perfect example of mixed quality results. I’ve found that even though students have full access to spell-check, online dictionaries, thesauruses, and numerous other spelling and grammar resources, does not mean they have the knowledge or ability to use these tools appropriately. The amount of assignments that I’ve had turned in online, that have numerous red squiggly lines present, is much higher than I’d be comfortable admitting.

During our debate, the debate group along with members of the class, debated the importance of spelling in the working world. As Steven C. Pan (2021,) found, “in the 21st century, spelling does still matter. In fact, in many respects—from the employment sector to perceptions of writers and their writing, and even in online settings— spelling matters at least as much as it has in prior centuries. Second, there is substantial evidence favoring the explicit teaching of spelling” (p. 1543.)

In fact, in many respects—from the employment sector to perceptions of writers and their writing, and even in online settings— spelling matters at least as much as it has in prior centuries.

https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-021-09611-y

Similar ideals can be found through our and others’ discussion on basic multiplication facts and the use of calculators for what would traditionally be considered ‘mental math.’ My parent’s argument that ‘you won’t always have a calculator in your pocket,’ is no longer valid- but does that mean we shouldn’t teach mental math? As ‘mental math’ fades and students become more dependent on calculators, this debate gathers more steam.  Paul Bennet discussed this and how it relates to PISA scores on the EduChatter blog. He explains that “Calculator dependence is now widespread in New Brunswick schools and its most telling impact is in the lagging Mathematics achievement of students.  The use of calculators in North American math classrooms has been common since the 1980s, but top performing nations, such as Singapore, China and Korea, put far more emphasis on integrating mental computation with conceptual understanding before progressing to higher-level math and problem solving. That approach is also reflected in the most successful after-school math tutoring programs such as Kumon Math and the Toronto-based alternative, the Spirit of Math, widely used in Ontario independent schools.”

As I mentioned before, when I consider efficiency, I can see both sides of the argument. While I would argue that calculator use is required to remain efficient in higher level math classes, I would push to continue the teaching of core concepts such as multiplication tables. I’m of the opinion that these core skills are important in developing a deeper understanding of higher level math, but also that they can allow you to be more efficient when using basic skills. Knowing how to compute basic operations mentally will nearly always be quicker for me then grabbing my phone, opening the calculator app, and calculating the answer.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

Our final core concept we debated, was the explicit teaching of handwriting. This is where I start to bend more towards Leah and Sushmeet‘s ‘agree side’ of the debate.

Growing up, I was taught cursive in elementary school, and used it regularly until 7th or 8th grade. Personally, I found my cursive writing to only be slightly quicker than my printing, while being significantly less neat. Arguments can definitely be made about the small amount of time spent practicing, yet I’ve found that outside of signing my name, handwriting is a skill I’ve rarely considered necessary. This feeling continued into university, where I was wildly faster at typing notes on the computer then I ever was writing them by hand. Additionally, I personally find a low difference in my understanding or recall when typing my notes versus taking them by hand.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

One thing that we didn’t discuss in as much detail as we could have during the live debate, is the simple time constraints within a school year. With the wide breadth of topics and information that is available to share with our students, can we afford to teach skills that are easily carried out by technology, and may not be utilized at all when a student leaves the school system? Are skills such as cursive writing and multiplication tables worth spending time on over subjects like coding or robotics, or other topics that have exploded in the workforce within recent years? As Leah and Sushmeet stated, we need to prep our students for tomorrow, not for yesterday.

As is often the case, this debate will come down to personal preference, and the ideals one considers important. Personally, I find a middle ground to be the sweet spot in each of the major topics we discussed. Mental math is important to the understanding of higher-level math, and for that reason, I believe memorizing multiplication tables will only help students as they age. Basic grammar and spelling rules are important to learn, but almost equally as important is learning how to use the tools available to you. Finally, while some time may be dedicated to cursive writing, outside of signing your name, it is not necessary within the bulk of today’s society.

Technology isn’t going anywhere. It will continue to be one of (if not the) most constant factors in the lives of our students. It is our responsibility as educators to ensure they are supported in learning how to use it appropriately, particularly when it is more efficient and engaging then going without.

Debate #2: Has Technology Led to a More Equitable Society?

Our second debate, very similar to the first, was extremely well done. Props go out to the group members on both sides. It was extremely interesting to see our pre-and post-vote results and how they shifted. One of the keys to this debate is the understanding of equity. Many have likely seen the famous image of the students behind the fence, displaying difference between equality and equity. I like to take this one step further using this image explaining Justice Oriented Citizens.

Technology Increases Equity: To a Certain Degree

Technology has the ability to increase equity in multiple aspects. Access to information has become one of the main proponents of this equity. Students and teachers all over the world have the ability to tap into the collective information from nearly all of recorded history. Being able to access this information allows for globalization, and truer discourse.

Additionally, technology has broken many barriers, particularly to individuals with disabilities. As one of our suggested viewings for this week, Tracy, Nicole and Stephen shared the following video. Kymberly DeLoatche shares touching stories about technology and the effect it can have on individuals, families and companies. If you haven’t watched it, I highly encourage it. It is one thing for me to tell you how important technology has been to to those with disabilities, but I would argue that it’s more impactful to hear it directly from someone affected.

One of the other large arguments for technology allowing education to become more equitable revolves around access becoming worldwide. Within one of the suggested readings the group shared with us, Matt Jenner from Education Technology writes:

“If you look at the growing access to education across the past few decades the numbers speak for themselves. In 2007, 57 countries were providing over 10 years of formal education to people; by 2017, it grew to 173 countries. The same goes for those who provide under five years of formal education, which, in 2017, 47 countries were unable to deliver. However, by 2017, this number shrank to just 32 countries”

Source

The Usual Problem: Funding

Although I mentioned that technology has the ability to increase equity, the problem lies in the affordability of technology. While technology has the potential to connect people all over the world, allowing them to gain information that may not be local to their location, it only does so for those that can afford it. When there are individuals that cannot afford, or do not have the privilege to accessing technology, society runs a risk of creating a deeper ‘digital divide’, as Christina, Amaya, and Matt discussed during their debate session. This divide truly was exasperated during the pandemic, and affected both students in school and adults that were forced to work online from home or risk losing their job. The divide becomes more severe in chronically underserved areas of our country. Many Indigenous communities and rural areas have greatly reduced access to high speed internet connections. This has dire effects on their job markets, and economies, while also affecting their social-wellbeing as they compete and compare themselves with individuals in more connected areas of the country.

To summarize, technology has the potential to increase equity across society, but we must ensure financial constraints do not become a barrier to building this equity. Never in any pervious point of our history has the world’s population had access to this much information, and tools that can truly make lives better. It is up to all of us to (as the first image states,) fix the system to offer equal access to tools and opportunities.

Lets Debate! Does Technology in the Classroom Actually Enhance Student Learning?

Technology has arguably changed the classroom and the way students learn more than any other factor over the last 100 years. Students and teachers alike often think of that incorporating technology is simply pulling out a laptop or tablet to assist in research. It is (or can be) so much more than that.

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Technology is at the core of how we display information to our students, communicate with families, share our students work and grades, photocopy material, and become engaged with the world outside of our classroom. A high majority of teachers use technology to plan or research their own content, or connect with colleagues in a way that will benefit their students. Megan and Brittney reminded me that not only is technology important in the classroom, but it’s critical to our lives outside of school. They discussed how important it is for the workforce to be technology literate, and how incorporating technology into our classrooms can prepare students to be more successful after graduation, as technology skills are now nearly an expectation within many job areas.

Photo by Marc Mueller on Pexels.com

One of the most impactful uses of technology that I’ve noticed as a teacher of high school elective classes, is the shifting of ideals in terms of what the teacher should be. I often instruct my Drafting and Design classes, that I am not an expert in this field. The online world is adding more knowledge every day than I could ever expect to learn in a lifetime. No longer am I the ‘expert at the front of the room’ that my teachers were. Shifting my role to become more of a facilitator of student learning has become a great encouragement to me. While I am happy to ‘lead the students down the path,’ I am constantly amazed at where they will take their projects when they are given the creativity to expand beyond my direction. Katherine McKnight (2015), along with her team, underwent a very interesting study, examining how educators use technology to improve student learning. Her results were like what I’ve described above. She writes

“perhaps the most profound change reported by the teachers…was the potential that technology provided for shifting the traditional roles of teachers and students both within and outside the classroom. Because technology enabled student access to multiple resources and perspectives, as well as levels of inquiry not otherwise available, it was possible to decrease the reliance on the teacher to provide answers and content to the class and shift the role toward guiding students to manage their own learning.”

Katherine McKnight, et.al, (2016) Teaching in a Digital Age: How Educators Use Technology to Improve Student Learning, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 48:3, 194-211, DOI: 10.1080/15391523.2016.1175856

Technology is great tool, but this wasn’t the debate topic. Asking yourself if technology enhances learning is a completely different question where the waters are much less clear.  Proponents against the use of technology in the classroom often point to distractions, which can be evidenced in literature. In Bernard R. McCoy’s study Digital Distractions in the Classroom (2016,) the authors referenced Purcel, et al.’s 2012 study, describing that “87% of respondents (teachers,) believed digital technologies were creating “an easily distracted generation with short attention spans,” and 64% said digital technologies did “more to distract students  than to help them academically.”

Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

During their debate, Nicole and Darryl, also commented on the shallow learning that technology can foster. Virtual connections often don’t have the same impact as face to face interactions, and taking notes or completing work on laptops often show a shallow cognitive response.

Another interesting point is debating why we haven’t saw greater leaps in academic achievement during the technological age. More students than ever are connected, but is that connectedness showing improvement in outcome attainment? Are students better learners now than they were 50 years ago? Regardless of your answer, is technology the key component causing it?

To summarize, I firmly believe that great teachers will remain great, with or without technology. Many of the largest facets of teaching revolve around relationship building and connecting with students. These areas are one part of the job that is arguably the least influenced by technology. That being said, I also believe that technology has the potential to improve efficiency, and engagement for teachers, when lessons are designed in a way that allows students to use technology as a beneficial tool to increase understanding, not simply as an alternate way to gain the same information/complete the same task. The SAMR model does a wonderful job explaining the different levels in which technology can be incorporated into the classroom.

Finally, I believe teacher’s have a responsibility to teach responsible use of technology within their classrooms. Technology is here to stay, and as with many other skills that may not be in the forefront of the curriculum, teaching about responsible use and digital citizenship. These are not new ideals- see the video below published in May of 2013 from the University of Lethbridge.

One of the most interesting themes of the video also came up during our debate. We can not assume that students are experts in technology. As with any skill, students may be exposed to technology constantly, but without being taught about acceptable and responsible use, we cannot expect them to experts.

As with most things, I find balance is key. Technology will forever be a useful tool for students and teachers, but teaching of acceptable and responsible use will become even more important as our society progresses.

Connecting Online- A ‘Day in the Life’ of my Technology Use

I have a deep appreciation for technology, both in my personal and working lives. I spend a ridiculous amount of time researching, getting excited by, and exploring new technologies, both in the online and hardware sense. (Currently, I’m reading multiple reviews a day on ‘Bookshelf Speakers’ in an effort to find something to replace my aging classroom speakers.)

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Edifier R1280T- The possible pick to replace my classroom speakers. Likely not within classroom budget, but possibly something I want to buy myself anyways. Image taken from the Amazon listing found here: https://bitly.is/3sIoWQL

This being said, as I become more established in my career, I’ve began finding myself raising my proverbial bar when it comes to technology that I use personally, or will introduce to my students. I often look for resources that help achieve tasks in a more creative, or efficient manner, while seeking to avoid using technology ‘simply for the sake of using it.’ I’ve found that finding quality resources is increasingly important, yet often difficult to the sheer quantity of new information and tools made available every day.

Within my classroom, I use technology to a relatively high degree, and if not for the finite number of student laptops in my building, I would use it even more. The majority of my classroom use can be broken down into 3 use cases: Project Creation, Formative Assessment/Review, and Research uses. I’ve compiled a list of some favourite tools below, each of which I’ve used in the classroom this year.

Project Creation:

Formative Assessment:

  • Kahoot (Review/Quiz Game)
  • Blooket (Similar to Kahoot, but with additional Mini-Games- great for keeping engagement with lower level learners who may be frustrated with Kahoots)
  • Formative (Online Assessment Tool- great amount of flexibility for your use case)
  • Microsoft Forms (Similar to Formative, but works well with our division’s Microsoft Accounts)
  • Plickers (Great Alternative to Kahoot for younger grades or classes with less access to technology as it only requires one teacher device and zero student devices.
Plickers are essentially individual QR codes that allow students to answer 4 choice multiple choice questions by rotating their code and holding it in the air. The teacher device scans the room and grades each answer. Each code is numbered, and when kept constant with your student roster, is a quick and easy way to gather formative assessment- particularly when technology may be short.

Research:

  • Britannica School– The school version of the popular online encyclopedia allows you to sort their traditional pages into grade level, and reading level appropriate content. For example, you may find the page on the Second World War, but there are up to 9 variations of grade/reading level to pick through. I believe this is a subscription service that your school division may or may not pay for. For those of you in Saskatchewan, I access it from this link from EdOnline.

Screenshots taken britannicalearn.com.

Culturegrams– I currently only have access to dated physical copies, but I am hoping to get digital licenses in the future! These are concise summaries of several different cultural aspects of nearly every country in the world. Very helpful for research projects with students, particularly in the late elementary/middle school years.

Outside the classroom, I find myself using technology constantly to connect with others, but the majority of this communication is with those I’m already connected to. I use a variety of social media apps to connect with family and friends, but rarely comment in public online spaces. During one of my blog posts for Alec Curos’ (@courosa) EC&I 831, I wrote about ‘lurking,’ more than participating in many online communities. I’ve come to appreciate my Ed. Tech. classes pushing me out of my comfort zone, to try and connect more with others online. Joining conversations online, such as #SaskEdChat on Twitter, have allowed me to build confidence in my participation, while also expanding my personal learning network, and digital identity. I find the more comfort I build in these spaces, will better allow me to convey digital citizenship ideals with my students.

I’d love to hear about any other Ed. Tech Tools that you enjoy using with students, or any other tips for participating in online conversations (especially Twitter!) Feel free to leave ideas below or follow me on Twitter (@MrLundED) and share there!