Category Archives: EC&I 830

Technology and Me – A Love/Hate Relationship

Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

Unlike many of my fellow peers, I am rarely woken by the “radar” sound on my iPhone. Usually, the early morning ramblings coming from my child’s crib are the first thing I hear in those wee ours. We’ve been blessed with a (very) early riser.

This is not to say that my morning routine is void of technology. In fact, soon after waking, I pick up my phone and check to see if I have any missed messages from the night before, notifications on any social media apps, or emails. Even if I don’t see the little red notification circle on any home screen icons, I still usually spend at least some time scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or more recently, getting the daily Wordle done before I leave the house. I value the opportunity technology allows me to stay up to date with the goings-on in the lives of my family and friends. I also appreciate the outlet it provides to just…mindlessly scroll. Sometimes, it’s soothing.

Though I’m not currently working as I write this (thanks, broken leg), if I were, the school day would involve a variety of tech. Before the kids arrive, I would turn on the projector, as something in my daily plan would inevitably involve viewing a video, PowerPoint to accompany a math lesson, or any number of other things I wanted to make visible to the students in a whole-group setting. A number of teachers in my school division are “Connected Educators”, meaning they have access to one-to-one technology for all of the students in their classroom. Although I applied for this program, I was not chosen for it. Instead, I regularly use an Outlook calendar to book shared devices for my students to use. On average, I would say that my students use the laptops for about 1.5 hours each day, depending on the nature of assignments as well as availability of the devices.

Throughout the school day, I use various digital programs for a range of purposes. These include email, OneNote, Seesaw, Microsoft Teams, Planboard, and Clever. My students regularly use programs such as Adobe Spark, Knowledgehook, and more recently, my students and I explored PenPal Schools, a space that allows students to connect and converse with students from around the world. I have tried blogging with my students here and there, and have incorporated media tools such as Wakelet. Unsurprisingly, many of my students also have personal technology that they use throughout the day, depending on the current classroom policy surrounding cell phones.

This brings me to my qualms with technology. I’m at a point in my career where I struggle to find the balance between encouraging and teaching purposeful and positive technology use and constantly policing improper use during class time. It feels like a never-ending battle trying to pull my students’ focus away from TikTok when they’re supposed to be creating commercials for their business expo products or some other project I wrongfully assumed would be engaging enough for them to not even be tempted by their mobile apps. Sometimes, it feels easier to just say “Okay, no cell phones, period.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t the solution. And truthfully, I know it too. But I do struggle to find that balance. In an ideal world, every student who came into my classroom would have their own personal device and together we could use them to learn and fight for justice and solve all the problems known to humankind. But we live in the real world where inequality abounds, and personal devices such as iPhones allowed in the classroom present the dangerous risk of widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. As a teacher of adolescents in the process of exploring and becoming who they are, I am more concerned about doing what I can to prevent students from feeling “lesser-than” in their own classroom… (and also with the whole being too concerned with their Snap streak thing to pay any mind to reducing fractions).

After the school day, once supper is finished and my daughter is asleep (or at least happily singing in her crib), I would typically either open up my laptop to do some correcting or planning, watch a show either solo or with my husband, or just relax and scroll. Sometimes, I’m okay to end the day this way. Sometimes, I wonder if I could be doing something better with my time…

And that’s what my day in the life – technology edition – looks like. In a nutshell, I appreciate technology and all that it allows for, including educational technology. I am, however, hesitant and even a bit resistant to fully immersing myself in this complex world. I am looking forward to challenging some of my own beliefs about the pitfalls and shortcomings of digital technology in this course and hopeful to maybe even find some solutions to my conundrums.

Every Day – All Day

I am of a generation that saw a technological boom grow up just behind my youth (GenX). I remember when I was in grade 8 my class got one of those old school IBM PCs with the green screen. Nobody really knew what to do with it, so it mostly sat there collecting dust. In high school we took typing, not keyboarding skills. In my late teens my family got dial-up internet but I didn’t have much to do with it, it was mostly used by my younger brother.  I may be a little behind the rise of tech, and although I don’t perceive myself to be particularly technologically savvy, I have certainly embraced it. I realize that a good deal of my time is spent using technology in one aspect or another. The advent of smart phones has made this true to some degree for just about everyone.

I find that my technology use can be categorized into three groups; personal use, professional use, and graduate studies, or student use.

In my personal life I use various platforms to provide entertainment like Apple Music, Audible, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. I typically access these platforms from my phone, but also from my MacBook or my Apple TV. I also use technology to communicate with people via text, Zoom, Messenger, and Facetime. I would say that the way I most frequently connect with others outside of my family is through Facebook or Messenger. This is because I am old, just ask my students who wouldn’t be caught dead on Facebook.

Technology definitely permeates my professional life. For example I take attendance, keep track of assignments, enter marks, and do student report cards on Edsby. I  put assignments, handouts, and communications into our online Google Classroom. I use Planboard to create my timetables and day plans, and Outlook to communicate with colleagues and parents. Conferences have been held by Zoom the last few years as have many staff meetings. It is daily that I use a laptop and projector, and sometimes a document camera to project work, videos, and demonstrations on the white board. I use technology as a teaching tool as well. Students use laptops to research, and create assignments. They use platforms like Prodigy, Scratch Jr, and YouTube often. Along with this we explore digital citizenship and learn skills like how to use Google effectively for research, or how to create different types of documents for example. In it would indeed seem that I rely quite heavily on technology in my teaching practice. 

I use technology in my graduate studies in the expected ways: attending class through Zoom, meeting with group partners on Zoom, accessing library materials through the John Archer Library, using URCourses to access class materials and submit assignments, researching using Google, and for creating assignments in various applications. My MacBook is my trusted partner in this endeavour.

The moral of this story is that whether you consider yourself to be a “techie” or not, you likely rely heavily on technology every day. Oh, and also that Facebook is for “old people”. 

Me taking a selfie

Just Another Day in the Life…

Currently because I’m on maternity leave, my day doesn’t involve my classroom or students, so this blog post is much different than the post I would be writing in September! With that being said, here are the major ways that I use technology throughout the day to stay connected, educate myself, and aid my day to day tasks:

Google Home

I bought a Google Nest Mini when I was looking for something that would play white noise for my baby throughout the evening and during her naps without having to recharge/change batteries. Now, I have three Google Nest Minis throughout the house and I love how everything is connected! I can control multiple lights, my baby monitor, smart vacuum, thermostat and dishwasher all from my phone! This has been such an upgrade in my quality of life. The first thing I do each morning is say “Okay Google, Good Morning” and the Google Nest tells me the temperature and goes through the top new stories for the day. When wanting to know the answers to simple questions, I can ask Google and get the top responses within seconds. The convenience is top notch.

Jorte Calendar and Planbook.

Paper calendars are a thing of the past… am I right? I have had all my appointments and reminders on my phone for as long as I can remember now. When I am teaching I still use this same calendar app, but my main day planner for teaching is Planbook. Though you do have to pay for a yearly subscription, it is my favourite school planner with tons of awesome options.

Podcasts, LibriVox or Audible

When I am not working, I constantly need something in the background of whatever I’m doing to stimulate myself! My main go-to is usually listening to a podcast, but every couple months I listen to an audiobook. LibriVox is completely free and has most of the literature you’d be looking for if you are into the classics. Audible has a paid subscription, but has more contemporary releases.

Spotify and Bandcamp

As do many of you, I use Spotify to satisfy my music needs. I love the curated playlists for finding new music and when playing music for baby as I wouldn’t know where to begin with children’s music otherwise. In the last few years I haven’t been as active in creating or recording music, but I in the past I used Spotify and Bandcamp to promote the album that I released titled, When We Saw Stars (shameless plug).

Facebook/Instagram/Facetime

I use these sites to connect with friends and family living in Regina or living away. Especially with having a baby, I find it even more important to connect with my family who live in various parts of Canada and aren’t able to visit often. I can’t imagine a world where this type of connection wouldn’t be possible… it makes the distance so much more bearable!

URCourses, Discord, Google Docs , WordPress

Of course while being in my master’s courses I have been utilizing the above sites to navigate the assignments, group work and connection with fellow classmates. This is my fourth class of my program. Already I have been introduced to a lot of new online tools. This is my first time using Discord, first time creating a blog and my first time attempting to use Twitter!

The list goes on, but these are the most important ways I use technology in my life. I truly don’t know what I would do if any of these devices/platforms weren’t available. They really enhance quality of life!

I NEED Technology: A Love/Hate Relationship

When I interned in 2009, I was fortunate enough to have a Coop that had a Smartboard and projector, something that was not common back then! I planned everything using the technology and visuals.

I was hooked! For my first teaching position I was placed in an elementary classroom with no projector. I could not teach like this. I ended up buying my own projector to use for my first two years of teaching.

Twelve years later, technology is part of just about every aspect of my life. I wake up, to an alarm on my phone, and will check my phone before leaving work (Facebook or Twitter). I exercise using a fitness app on my phone. I get to school and immediately turn on my projector so I can display each class’s agenda (on Word) for the day.

All lessons start with a Powerpoint or Word document for reference, most lessons include a Youtube video, all reviews include a Quizizz (virtual quiz) to help study, students are allowed to use the Quizlet App to make virtual cue cards, and all class materials are posted to MS Teams daily. Also, students use a variety of programs (Powerpoint, Canva, etc.) to write up “photo labs” for my science classes.

Communication between students and families is also all virtual. If it is not by email, it’s a message on the Remind App or on Teams messenger.

Once at home, communication for my children’s school is also via technology, either through email or Seesaw. Their teachers frequently send messages and videos about the day’s events through the Seesaw App. Even the softball coaches use an App to keep a schedule and communicate messages!

I rely on my phone for my alarm clock, my calendar, my grocery lists, communication with family, friends, kid’s activities organizations and of course sharing on social media! I am addicted to technology, it is an amazing thing BUT I also am very aware and cautious about the time I spend on my phone, especially with/around my children.

My Techie Day

It was surprising for me to actually write everything out like this in terms of tech used throughout my day. I have said in the past that I am not techie yet as I write this I realize just how much technology I use for both work and home life.

My day with technology starts with checking Twitter, the weather, and Facebook, yes, I am old. 🙂 I communicate with my family and friends via text on and off during the day.  With my kids, we use discord and Kid Messenger to send messages.  I also have various games I play on my phone, word and strategy games are my favourite. 

At work, I am on the computer checking emails, doing attendance, marking, and checking my online daybook for what comes first. I have been using PlanBoard for my daybook for 4 years now and absolutely love it. I do most of my planning for lessons and units online nowadays.  It has been a very long time since I bought a teaching book.  Almost everything comes from the web. Most communication and booking of events happen online at my school.  There are no paper sign-ups for anything anymore.  All system-wide communication is also done online.  Needless to say, I am online a lot during the day.

My class uses Google Classroom and Google chat every day.  I find some students are more open to sending me messages rather than coming up to ask a question.  Some use it all of the time and others just once in a while.  Many of our assignments are on Google Classroom and the students and I do research on our laptops daily.  I like Google Classroom because there is no need to print and waste paper.  I assign, mark, and return online.  When students are away they can access our assignments without having to come in for homework.  This was a game-changer during Covid.  It was so much easier to get work to the students.  Having said that there were students we needed to lend laptops to.  There were also a couple of students who didn’t have internet and so they needed things printed for them.  Tech is great when you have access to it. 

In the evenings my use of tech is FaceTime with my sister and even white noise for the night and my alarm clock for the morning.  Tech is used throughout the day in my home and at work. 

Confessions of a Teacher Techie Queen

Okay, I know, I know… the title is a little cringe. But, please, hear me out…

Flashback to Jan. 2021: After many painstaking and gruelling months of teaching amidst a pandemic, I needed a change. I was feeling burnt out and uninspired. On a whim, I decided to apply for a transfer to our online school, Cyber Stone Virtual School, hoping that a new challenge would ignite a spark in me again.

Fast forward to May 2021: It was a very cold and stormy day. I knew that my superintendant was in the building and, being an ELA teacher with a flair for the dramatics, I was hoping that the weather was not indicative of any upcoming somber news…

Turns out, it was not somber news — it was a transfer offer! One that I accepted! (Obviously).

In Sept. of 2021, I was bright-eyed and excited for this new path in my career. And then… one week passed… then two… and I realized that I was a fish out of water. Wiggling in the sand. Gasping for breath.

Questions that haunted my sleep in that first month: How exactly do you engage students in an online environment? How do you narrow down the multitude of technological tools available to us in the education sector in a focused, effective way?

Now, fast forward again (sorry… are you dizzy yet?) to May 2022.

Phew. What a learning curve that was! Now, although I wouldn’t call myself a “techie queen” (I just really wanted to pay homage to my favourite movie as a teen, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen), I have learned a thing or two about how to use tech for teaching in a purposeful way.

Each day, I rely on Microsoft TEAMS to connect synchronously with my students for their live lessons. We also use BlackBoard as the platform for which all students’ learning material and assignments are displayed. Lastly, we use Edsby as a learning management system and a communication tool for students/parents. These are the integral pillars upon which our online school functions.

Now, what about the extras? One aspect that is extremely hard to cultivate in an online learning environment is camaraderie amongst students. If you poll students on what they miss the most about face to face school, usually their number one response is “my friends”. How can you minimize this in an online setting?

I have found that Slido is an excellent icebreaker tool. Slido has a variety of options — like polls, wordclouds, quizzes, etc — that can be used at the beginning of class to help get students comfortable with one another. I often use the beginning 5 minutes of class to ask general questions like, “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?” or “If you could have one superpower, what would it be” and use the Wordcloud option… the result is 5 minutes of students interacting with each other in a loose and relaxed way.

Cultivating these relationships is important as it pays dividends when I later want to elicit discussions amongst students and NOT hear crickets…

For many years, Kahoot has also been my go-to as an interactive quiz site that is engaging and fun for students. However, Kahoot has recently gone to the dark side and made drastic changes to its business model; it now only allows up to 5 students to play a quiz within the free version. Therefore, I have decided to do away with Kahoot and use Quizziz. In many ways, I find Quizziz superior to Kahoot (future blog post?) which may lend itself to the popular saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…”

Now, what are a few tech tools that I find to be effective modes of learning in the online classroom, and not just a fad?

Padlet is a god-send for encouraging authentic online collaboration amongst students. It allows for more student-directed discussion and fosters student analysis. It gives students a space to engage with the subject matter on their own level and ask questions that are meaningful to them. Engaging in this type of critical thinking is a critical 21st century skill.

Flipgrid is another favourite tech tool of mine. In an online environment, it is especially beneficial for allowing the teacher to see the student in a one-on-one visual environment, practicing a skill. It also allows for the opportunity to foster a supportive and social online learning environment; there is the potential to make students’ videos visible to each other and, with the comment section on, this can lead to increased classroom camaraderie and reflection.

If there’s anything that I have learned from online teaching, it’s that just because there is pretty much every tech tool available, doesn’t mean that you should use it… each integration of tech into your classroom should be purposeful and meant to foster engagement and innovation. We have experienced an enormous technological transformation in our society within the last twenty years. Let’s capitalize on this — in a meaningful and focused way — to help foster critical, 21st century learners.

Slowly…. ever so slowly over the last eight months… I have transitioned to a fish out of water… to a fish in the water (with slight PTSD from the first month of oxygen deprivation).

So what’s the message in all of this? Well….

Sincerely,

The (Self-Proclaimed) Teacher Techie Queen

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Taanishi!

My name is Jessica. I’m a Michif/Settler woman from the Treaty 4 area of Saskatchewan and my pronouns are she/her. I am an educator, a mother, a cultural ambassador, creative type, and lifelong learner. This blog is titled paykiiwikay which means come and visit in Michif. I welcome your interaction with my posts.